Light at the end of the tunnel for Mamelodi Sundowns after ’emotional period’
JOHANNESBURG - A Sense of “emotional stability” is starting to reign at Mamelodi Sundowns after two tragedies hit the club late last year, and coach Rhulani Mokwena suggests that they can build on from that positivity.
Late in November, the club was hit with news that defender Anele Ngcongca passed away in a car accident in KwaZulu-Natal where he was close to sealing a loan deal with AmaZulu.
Soon thereafter, another dark cloud hit the Tshwane-based team when in early December defender Motjeka Madisha passed away after the vehicle he was driving burst into flames. But despite the two tragedies, the Brazilians had to carry on with business as usual in their domestic and continental duties.
Subsequently, though, they prevailed as they preserved their unbeaten record to remain at the summit of the Premiership standings with 21 points, thanks to six wins and three draws in the first nine matches of their campaign.
Amid starting the New Year with a 1-0 win over Orlando Pirates in the league, they have also qualified for the group stage of the Caf Champions League after trouncing Botswana side Jwaneng Galaxy 5-1 on aggregate in
the qualifiers at Lobatse Stadium and Loftus respectively.
“Emotionally, we are also improving as a team,” Mokwena said. “We are getting into the right state of mind. So now it’s hands on deck, and we are looking forward to travelling to Polokwane to play against a very good Baroka side.”
Sundowns make the trip north to face Bakgakga on the back of a 3-1 midweek win over Galaxy in the second leg of their Champions League qualifier. But Mokwena knows that their job will be cut out for them against Baroka FC who have won three matches, drawn three and lost three since the start of the league season.
“We’ll see what they put out. We’ve prepared and have had two training sessions to prepare for that match. Hopefully, we’ll put the work done during the week on the pitch and come out with a very good result. It’s going to be a difficult one,” Mokwena said.
“They are never really an easy side to play against, particularly when they are at home. Their threat in set-pieces is something that we are aware of. We’ve got to be ready for them. (Baroka are a) good team with a clear identity and personality. It will be a difficult match, but we have to be ready.”
Sundowns have been forced into a corner in their last two matches, having had to field somewhat of a makeshift team due to Covid-19 positive cases and injuries.
But Mokwena is banking on the return of some of their starting personnel to make things a bit easier for them going forward. Reigning PSL Footballer of the Season Themba Zwane has missed Sundowns’ last three matches, following a bright start of seven league goals in as many matches.
“We are in a good space,” Mokwena said. “We are almost getting a clean bill of health, which is good. We are welcoming a lot of players back to training. And that is another process where we’ve got to be patient and not rush individual players into competitive action.”