JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns’ assistant coach Manqoba Mngqithi questioned South African players’ attitudes in their approach towards “easy” matches after seeing the Brazilians huff-and-puff to a 2-1 win over a team two divisions lower than them.
Mngqithi said he expected to see Sundowns struggling against EC Bees on Tuesday in the Nedbank Cup last 16 as the players would subconsciously drop the tempo against the minnows, knowing that they will eventually get a win.
Mngqithi used a number of tricks to get Sundowns’ players psyched up for their clash with the ABC Motsepe League side, even taking inspiration from the book Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership, written by James Kerr, on what makes the all-conquering All Blacks successful, while revealing lessons that people can learn from that success.
“(Former All Blacks assistant coach, Wayne) Smith says that if you want to have extraordinary success, you must go through extraordinary circumstances,” Mngqithi said.
“And one would ask how can the circumstances be extraordinary when you are playing against a small team? But if you look at teams like Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, when they play against small teams they think differently from our local boys. They want to score as many goals as they can.
“That’s the moment when a Cristiano Ronaldo wants to break his records for the number of goals he has scored.”
Mngqithi continued: “In South Africa when you are playing against a smaller team the players say that we are going to win anyway. The performance that we saw against EC Bees has those elements but we would be stupid to think that in a Caf Champions League match we would perform like we did.
“To be honest, we had the same attitude against Rayon Sports (in the first leg) because we were playing in Rwanda. We thought ‘these people, we will easily beat them’. And you end up taking an attitude that’s not one of the best.
“The intensity was good but the focus wasn’t of the highest level. It’s a wake-up call for all of us because if they score, we will need to score two goals because we failed to score in Rwanda. A 0-0 draw in the Champions League isn’t one of the best because it exposes you to a no-mistake-at-all mentality.”
Sundowns host Rayon on Sunday at Loftus Versfeld in a must-win match if they are to advance to the group stage after that goalless draw in Kigali.
Pitso Mosimane will be back in the technical area for that match after missing the win over EC Bees as he was in Morocco attending the inaugural Caf Pro Licence Course that featured African football coaching royalty.
Mosimane admitted that the reason they returned with a goalless draw from Rwanda was due to complacency as they felt they would easily get a good result due to their good start. But that wasn’t the case and they almost returned with their tails between their legs.
“They are not a strong team,” Mngqithi said. “It’s just that those teams can be dangerous when you put your foot off the pedal.
They can get you on the counter-attack because they are quick off the mark. We are hoping for an interesting match but to be honest, we should win. If we don’t win, we must blame ourselves because we deserve to win this match.”