We Want To Be In The Final, We Are Not Afraid To Say That – Coach Rulani Mokwena

Mamelodi Sundowns’ quest for a treble continues on the road when they face Royal AM in KwaZulu-Natal in the Nedbank Cup semi-finals.

Masandawana are at the verge of a domestic clean sweep having already won the MTN8 title in 2021 and the PSL championship for the fifth time in a row. The Tshwane giants are preparing themselves to come face-to-face against Royal AM at Chatsworth Stadium on Saturday, and co-coach Rulani Mokwena revealed that they got the work off the ground for the Ke Yona Competition already:

“We’ve already started to profile and try to help the players with information and we have watched how they play. They have a back three that at this moment is without Ricardo Nascimento, of course maybe when he’s fully fit he starts at left center half instead of [Thato] Lingwati. They’ve got [Tshepo] Rikhotso, they’ve got [Samuel] Manganyi the skipper and they form part of the back three. In the midfield they’ve got a lot of options – [Lantshene] Phalane, [Given] Mashikinya but at the moment they have [Siphesihle] Msomi who played their last match against Cape Town City.”

“They’ve also got [Kabelo] Mahlasela, and everyone knows the qualities that he brings, the dynamisms and the aggression to play in and around the box, his ability to shoot from outside the box and he becomes a key strength of theirs. And then they’ve got wing backs, on the one side you’ve got [Shaun] Mogaila that plays on the right and predominantly you create different dynamisms from that, because then you’ve got a Manganyi and either [Zukile] Mkhize or Mogaila on the right and wingback. And then you’ve got a [Victor] Letswalo that is inverting and possibly joining [Mxolisi] Macuphu upfront and making a two prong attack and coming from wide areas and the danger is always on the far post in particular when the ball goes to [Thabo] Matlaba’s side. 

“Thwihli thwahla” began their Nedbank Cup with a 2-1 home victory against Cape Town City in February, followed by a 1-0 successful journey away to Swallows FC in Johannesburg and went on to reclaim favorable results against the University of Pretoria in the quarter-final. Masandawana had a successful outcome in their first encounter against the new kids on the block in December 2021, the Tshwane outfit wrapped up the game with a three goals to two at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

“A very good team that is well coached, that’s got history together, it’s not a team that is just Royal AM in a sense that it’s a new team because of the new club, but because 90% of the playing personnel comes from Bloemfontein Celtic under the same coach and so there’s longevity, there’s very good cohesion and that is a very big strength of theirs.” Coach Rulani analyzed his opponents.

“We expect a very difficult match and a match that has a team that has very good players. It’s well coached by John [Maduka] and his technical team are doing a fantastic job which is good to see, but we also have a very good team. We’ve got very good players, we’ve got lofty ambitions, we want to be in the final, we are not afraid to say that and we are gonna go in Saturday to work to be in the final and try to do our level best that we can to make sure that we are in the final.”

The 2021/22 season has caught sight of The Brazilians reaching the CAF Champions League quarter-finals with an outstanding performance where they won five of their group stage matches and drew once to qualify with games yet to be played. Unfortunate to their attempts to get their hands on the second star, Downs were eliminated in the quarter-final of the African competition and will be hoping to complete their second domestic treble.

“It was not easy for them to come back from a match where we were out of the Champions League and to respond like that, with diligence, with a lot of respect for the club. We wanted all three points but unfortunately we came out with one. We went into the match knowing that we needed a win to mathematically seal the championship, but the reality is that one point was still good enough particularly because mathematically Cape Town City could still catch up with us, up until the beginning of the match.” Coach Rulani applauded the attitude of the players after their defeat in the Champions League.

“The reality is that we wanted to win the Champions League first and that’s where we should start, but it’s important to understand that you don’t win a league title merely because you’ve already won it four times or merely because you’ve won the previous one. You win it because you earn it over 30 games in the season, there is no league title where a team plays and for some strange reason they win the league title because of their reputation and their names, there’s work that needs to be done, there’s a lot of consistency that is needed. Sometimes with a cup game you’ve got four or five games and you may not play as well as you possibly can but you go for the result and you need a bit of luck sometimes to do that, in the league title you won’t win too many matches if you don’t perform consistently to your best.”

Bafana Ba Style successfully defended their PSL championship after drawing 0-0 with Cape Town City on Wednesday evening and claimed a record-extending fifth successive league title with four games to spare, late last year they snatched the MTN8 trophy. Coach Rulani emphasized on the importance of approaching the remaining games with professionalism: 

“Of Course there’s something to play for, even when we played Champions League we qualified with three games to go from the group, but we still played those games with integrity and with respect because the brand demands that. The responsibility of this football club and the players understand very clearly that there are no dead rubber matches. All these games are games that present us with an opportunity to maybe even start thinking about different things that we want to do next season and start experimenting with different formations, different positional adaptations for certain individuals, different build-up schemes and different high press schemes.”

Mamelodi Sundowns lock horns with Royal AM FC in the Nedbank Cup semi-finals on Saturday, 30 April at the Chatsworth Stadium in Durban. Kick off is at 19H00, live on SuperSport.

3 Responses
  1. Muzi Kunene

    Maybe I don’t understand soccer and pls can someone enlighten me on this thing of Jali and Onyango they’re always do passing each other and delaying the game unnecessary and why Jali is always at the back.

  2. Mfana

    Wake up editor don’t sleep on a job bhuti,Sundowns won but u r repeating the same thing.Ungazo sdina laa