Emotional Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena savours the season's last hurrah
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CAPE TOWN – Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena was overcome with emotion as the players and technical staff gathered in the medal presentation area to savour the side's 3-0 win over Cape Town City at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Saturday evening.
It was Sundowns' final match of the DStv Premiership season. The festivities could only be concluded on the final day of the season, although the title was already secured a week ago.
The match marked a stirring climax to a championship-winning season. By any statistical measure, 2020-21 ended with a runaway 13-point margin in a season like no other. Some time ago, Sundowns had reduced the title chase to a one-horse race.
Mokwena and his fellow coaches Manqoba Mngqithi and Steve Komphela have turned Sundowns into a formidable football force.
After the match, Mokwena posted an emotional message on social media, and he warned that Sundowns would be an even more powerful team in the future.
His message read: "Tonight, the tears and scars of my young coaching journey will be wiped away by a gold winner's medal.
"And the scary thing is, we are just getting started. Congratulations Masandawana, you have pocketed the Grand Slam yet again."
Mokwena was thrilled with the way the team played in their final league outing. In a post-match interview to he highlighted the team's mentality.
"Firstly, what a good game to finish the season," he said. "It was a good team, and the substitution of (attacking midfielder) Mpho Makola gave the team a little bit more.
"We stabilised and played with the right mentality today, as we did throughout the entire season.
"The players have done absolutely incredible things this season.
"We've changed a little bit the way we played. Players bought into the concepts, and it's great to see."
The 2021-20 season posed massive challenges, many of which were strange to the team's technical staff.
"The coronavirus pandemic was a huge one and made for a strange season," said Mokwena.
"Because of Covid-19, there was a need to rotate the team, and sometimes you lose rhythm and fluidity at times. Trying to maintain the quality with all the changes was a major challenge.
"Having an inflated squad also has been difficult. We could not trim the numbers because of coronavirus.
"In times like this, you need numbers, quality and depth. We have done exceptionally well and set a good foundation.
"In our first season (as three new coaches) we needed to set the foundation. Hopefully, we build on this. It is not only the Grand Slam, which is the league title. We must also fight for the CAF Champions League next season and try and get the big one.
"I think the fact that a lot of people thought it (a three-man coaching staff) would not work, we had a lot of detractors. This made us push harder and motivate ourselves even more.
"It was a season where we knew that 100% was not enough. We needed 115, maybe sometimes 200%. We knew as a technical team we had to be twice as good.”