Mamelodi Sundowns’ Rhulani Mokwena keeps it professional ahead La Masia showdown

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena reacts during the CAF Champions League match against Egypt's Al Ahly.

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena is not taking La Masia lightly. Picture: Khaled Desouki / AFP

Published Feb 20, 2024


How does the best football team in the land, some would argue the continent, prepare for a clash against a lower division side everyone expects them to beat with ease?

The same way they do for a clash against their biggest rivals – thoroughly and with a lot of research and homework on their unheralded opponents. It is the Mamelodi Sundowns way. No shortcuts.

And in living up to their standards, coach Rhulani Mokwena has been to Dobsonville Stadium to watch first division outfit La Masia in action against Tuks.

The young coach has, as he always does, spent evenings watching a couple of videos of the club many would argue Sundowns would beat using their weakest starting line-up.

He would have watched a third one on Monday night prior to this Tuesday night’s Nedbank Cup clash between the two sides. At a pre-match media conference for the clash that La Masia will host at the Dobsonville Stadium tonight (7pm), Mokwena was his typical excited self as he ‘showed off’ his knowledge of the opposition.

“We are looking forward to it (the match). It’s an interesting team that we will be playing against, well-coached. Daine Klate and his technical team have done a good job to reach this stage.”

Whereas many an elite league coach usually laments the difficulty that comes with playing against lower division sides given that they are often an ‘unknown quantity’, Mokwena beamed as he spoke of the homework he and his team did on their opponents.

“Given what Dondol (Stars) did last season, you can’t underestimate any team,” he said, in reference to the lower division team’s giant-killing acts in last year’s edition of the competition.

“We had to work very hard to profile the team. Fortunately there are a lot of (their) players who played in the PSL (previously).

“We managed to get to a couple of (videos of) their games and I attended their game against Tuks. So, I am looking forward to what should be an interesting encounter.”

As he always does, Mokwena ratted out some names of the opposition players and how they play, before describing La Masia as a team with “lots of energy and good organisational form” while praising their coach, Klate.

He spoke of how the Motsepe Foundation League team’s profile has “changed a little bit from last season” and said their “style of play has changed” too.

“The story of La Masia is interesting because it takes me back to a team called Strokes in the Walter Sisisulu Discovery (Soocer Challenge).

“We used to play with Black Poison (the amateur team he coached before joining the professional ranks) against them. To see the club where it is today and some of the players where they are is amazing.”

That Sundowns fans are always expecting their team to repeat that incredible 24-0 Nedbank Cup victory against PowerLines FC from 2012 whenever the Brazilians face lower league opposition is something the coach, who has been likened to luminaries such as Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, does not entertain.

He knows that the important thing is for the club to progress to the next round of the competition and then focus on the next assignment given the Brazilians’ tough schedule, which will see them travelling to Mauritania this weekend for a CAF Champions League Group A Matchday 5 clash against FC Nouadhibou.

In another Nedbank Cup match tonight, SuperSport United host Cape Town City at the Lucas Moripe Stadium.