Rhulani Mokwena is hoping divine intervention can aid Mamelodi Sundowns against Al Ahly

Rhulani Mokwena says he has been praying his players are fit tfor their clash against Al Ahly. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Rhulani Mokwena says he has been praying his players are fit tfor their clash against Al Ahly. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Oct 27, 2023


Mamelodi Sundowns are a very good team. They have very good players and a very good structure. They are a very strong team and they can win this competition.”

Alexandre Santos was not trying to curry favour in the hope that he gets considered should a coaching job opportunity arise at Sundowns in the future.

No, the Petro de Luanda coach was genuine, having seen his team struggle to get anything out of their African Football League clash with the multiple Premiership champions.

“We needed the goal the match, but it never came. We did our best,” Santos said following their 0-0 draw at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday, a result that saw Sundowns progressing to the semi-finals via a 2-0 aggregate win, courtesy of their first-leg victory in Luanda last weekend.

Next up for Sundowns are their perennial rivals Al Ahly, whom they tackle in Cairo on Sunday for the first leg, before they host them in Pretoria next Wednesday.

If Santos is to be believed, Sundowns should get the better of Al Ahly, who progressed to the last four of this inaugural special competition via away goals, having drawn 3-3 on aggregate with Tanzania’s Simba SC.

Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena is wily enough, though, to know not to get carried away by compliments or the opposition’s results.

A stickler for preparation, he has watched a good number of the quarter-final matches, and anticipates a tough clash with the Egyptian giants – Sundowns’ recent big win against them notwithstanding.

“The level has been very, very high. The teams are very good from what I watched – catching up with all the games,” Mokwena said.

“I am not surprised because it is a select few; the highest select few and probably the mostly highestranked teams in the continent (participating).

“Al Ahly and Simba was an exceptional game, the level was very high. I watched Esperance struggle. I saw Enyimba putting on an unbelievable performance. And there was a physical and hard-running TP Mazembe.”

He said the matches were very good.

“That’s why there were very little chances in all the games. Others (teams) needed a penalty or a corner kick to settle some of the games.

“So, set-pieces become very important when there are very little (few) chances in open play, and that is only normal when the level is so close to each other and the margin of error is so little.

“It’s the same as when we played Al Ahly (in the Caf Champions League at the beginning of the year), and we created five chances and we (did well and) scored all five of those.

“Against Petro (in the first leg last weekend), our first shot on target was a goal (by) Marcelo Allende.

This is what happens sometimes in football.”

Sundowns will face an Al Ahly team that are no doubt still seething after the Tshwane club embarrassed them 5-2 in a Champions League group-stage clash last season.

For Sundowns to repeat the result, they will need to have all their best players available, and Mokwena has said he has been praying for a miracle.

“I am on my knees, and I bow my head every night. I pray and ask God to perform miracles. The same miracles He performed, my prayer to Him is just perform one more,” he said.

“My prayer is that He resurrects and brings back Lucas (Riberiro Costa), Peter (Shalulile) and Thapelo (Morena) as soon as possible, because for sure, they make a difference.”

The trio were absent from the two clashes against Petro de Luanda. That Sundowns got through without them would seem to confirm Santos’ stance that the Brazilians are “a very strong team that can win this competition”.

But against Al Ahly, Sundowns will need to be at their strongest.