Mamelodi Sundowns are gearing up for an epic showdown in the MTN8 semi final against Against Chiefs at the FNB Stadium on Saturday. In a highly anticipated press conference held ahead of the Wafa Wafa clash, The Brazilians Head Coach Rulani Mokwena addressed the media about the team’s preparations for the upcoming first leg of the semi-final clash on the weekend.
Coach Rulani began by acknowledging the significance of the upcoming fixture against AmaKhosi, he said: “It’s going to be a very interesting game, two very good sides in good moments in the early parts of the moments in the season, but we have to play as a once off and try to make sure that we get the results that give us good possibilities to approach the second leg with good confidence, but the mentality for us this season is to prepare as well as we can and try to win every single match.”
“It’s a completely different competition, an important stage of a different competition – the semifinal and because we want to do better than we did last season, it’s important that we try to put ourselves in a different position with this competition in particular than where we were last season. Our experiences in a two legged affair tells us a lot of what happens in the second leg, is determined by what happens in the first leg regardless of whether it’s home or away.”
In the 2022-23 season, Masandawana were unsuccessful in defending the prestigious trophy when they were knocked out of the semi finals by Orlando Pirates. Sundowns and the Buccaneers played to a goalless draw in the first leg at Orlando Stadium and lost 3-0 in the second-leg of their semi-final in Polokwane. The Brazilians coach responded with transparency and enthusiasm when asked about the team’s strategy for the upcoming two leg fixtures.
“Many, many years ago at Mamelodi Sundowns we won the Champions League. The advantage of playing at home first worked for us, but last season in the Champions League we felt very comfortable for example in playing away first and then coming home. If you look at two seasons ago, our Champions League campaign we lost out to Petro [de Luanda] in the quarterfinals, that advantage meant nothing because of the results first away from home.”
“Then you can say the same about the MTN8 last season and then maybe even the semifinals of the Champions League against Wydad last season, a lot of how we approach the second leg and a lot of what we do in the return fixture at home is determined by a lot of factors. We have to take it one game at a time, not think too much about the second leg but try to push ourselves into a position where we are a little bit in control of our minds and a little bit in control of our tactics and our approach.”
Sundowns recorded a “double” over Chiefs in the previous season during league encounters, with a total of 5-0 (4-0 and 1-0). In the new season the two teams have already locked horns in Masandawana’s second fixture of the season and the Tshwane giants emerged victorious with a 2-1 scoreline. Coach Rulani analyzed the opponent and stressed the importance of teamwork and discipline in the buildup to this crucial semi-final.
“In relation to Kaizer Chiefs, I think they have made incredible progress. I have a few more games to watch, but fortunately I have had enough time to watch three matches now. I think they had a very good performance against AmaZulu and [Wednesday night’s] performance against Stellenbosch was also good away from home [against] a very difficult Stellenbosch team. [I have to] revisit our matches against them, it does look to be a repetition in some of the processes from out of possession type of perspective, they look to be a little bit stronger with the actions without the ball.”
“You can see a little bit with the stability and maybe the profile of their midfield gives them especially [Edson] Castilo and Yusuf [Maart]. Brandon Peterson gives them a very good foundation to be able to build their defensive schemes and structural forms, they have Pule Mmodi who gives them a different dimension with [Mduduzi] Mdantsane, who is very good and very experienced in between the lines and a different type of a profile to when they played against with a [Siyethemba] Sithebe for example. They also have the influence of the subs, they have a very strong bench and we know some of the things that we have to do already.”
Coach Rulani concluded by giving emphasis on the winning mentality, he said: “I think that we are in a very good space to be able to dream of winning every trophy. We are in a space where we are trying to influence a lot of work that we can do by focussing on the process of wanting to win. We focus on our preparation, our mentality and we focus on our training attitude, our energy. We focus on our video analysis, a lot on the things that we can control and that is the process of wanting to win.”
Mamelodi Sundowns do battle with Kaizer Chiefs in the MTN 8 semi final first leg at the FNB Stadium on Saturday. Kick off is at 15H00, live on SuperSport TV.