Mngqithi to lead Downs after Mokwena’s shock exit

RULANI Mokwena has vacated his role as head coach of Mamelodi Sundowns. BackpagePix

RULANI Mokwena has vacated his role as head coach of Mamelodi Sundowns. BackpagePix

Published Jul 4, 2024


MAMELODI Sundowns yesterday confirmed the shock decision to release head coach Rhulani Mokwena, who realised his worst fears that the team’s most recent failures would come back to haunt him.

Mokwena’s tenure over the past few weeks became increasingly fractious because he could no longer see eye-to-eye with the club’s highly qualified sporting director Flemming Berg, who joined the club after being head of elite football development at the Danish Football Association for seven years.

Berg was responsible for the entire operation at Sundowns and after a while, Mokwena became unhappy with some of his decisions. Since Mokwena was close to chairman Thlopie Motsepe, he would go over Berg’s head to discuss matters. Motsepe put a stop to that.

Berg was looking to assemble a squad with a CAF Champions League pedigree. Hence, he brought in star players like Ribeiro Costa and Marcello Allende at great expense.

When Mokwena had a chance to sign players, he brought in the likes of Lesiba Nku, Bathusi Aubaas and Thembinkosi Lorch. These are not the calibre of players you need to win continental competitions.

Things have become so hard for Mokwena that in recent weeks, he hinted that he may not last at Sundowns because of the club’s expectations.

Since the end of last season, Mokwena started showing signs of the tremendous strain he’s been under as head coach of Sundowns, whose success in the domestic arena has been unmatched for the past seven seasons.

Often Sundowns were runaway Premiership winners and last season they bagged a seventh successive crown.

The big let-down, however, was their inability to close out last season with the tag of ‘Invincibles’ as they suffered defeat in their last league match of the season.

Mokoena was heartbroken by this inability to claim invincibility and he hinted that this could come back to haunt him.

A week after the Premiership defeat, Sundowns lost the Nedbank Cup final and this left Mokoena devastated.

Afterwards, he said he was unsure that the club would accept these back-to-back defeats in light of the resources the club has placed at his disposal.

Yesterday, Sundowns announced Mokwena’s departure via a post on their website.

The statement reads: “Mamelodi Sundowns and Rhulani Mokwena amicably concluded an agreement bringing to an end Rhulani Mokwena’s employment as Head Coach.

“Sundowns wishes to express its gratitude to Rhulani Mokwena for his contribution to the successes and achievements of the Club during his tenure as Head Coach. Rhulani Mokwena will forever be part of the Mamelodi Sundowns Family and the club wishes him all of the very best with his future endeavours.

“The decision of Mamelodi Sundowns was taken by the Board taking into account the objectives and expectations of the Club and was not influenced or based on the recommendation of any individual associated with the Club.

“Sundowns is deeply committed to the development and growth of South African coaches and players.

“Coach Manqoba Mngqithi and the Technical Team will continue to lead and take control of the training and preparation of the players for the upcoming season.

“Mamelodi Sundowns is preparing and focusing on competing in all the upcoming competitions and is honoured to be one of four Football Clubs representing the African Continent in the historic FIFA Club World Cup 2025.”