All eyes on Downs technical team as Komphela returns

Mamelodi Sundowns senior coach Steve Komphela has returned as Rulani Mokwena departs. | BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns senior coach Steve Komphela has returned as Rulani Mokwena departs. | BackpagePix

Published Jul 7, 2024


STEVE Komphela’s return to Mamelodi Sundowns as a senior coach suggests that whoever the multiple South African champions appoint to replace Rulani Mokwena as head coach is unlikely to bring his own technical team.

The club announced yesterday morning that the former Bafana Bafana captain is rejoining the club as an assistant to Manqoba Mngqithi, who has taken charge following Mokwena’s departure last week.

Though Mngqithi has held the reins since the beginning of the pre-season training, which will later see the club go to Austria to prepare for an eighth successive championship, it is understood that Sundowns are looking for a new coach to take over.

But now with Komphela returning to swell up an already big technical team, whoever they hire next could well be restricted as to the number of assistants he brings along. The well-travelled Komphela expressed delight at returning to Chloorkop.

“I am very excited to be back at Mamelodi Sundowns, where I was always inspired and treated with respect and love,” he said in the statement released by the club. “I look forward to contributing to the club achieving its goals in South Africa and on the continent.”

The continental goals are to win the CAF Champions League once again after their victory back in 2016, which was followed by successive semi-final exits this and last year – factors that no doubt played a big role in the decision to let Mokwena go.

While it has been hinted that Mokwena’s departure had a lot to do with him not seeing eye to eye with sporting director Flemming Berg on a number of matters, there can also be no denying that the club’s failure to reach at least the Champions League final was the young coach’s undoing.

Twice Mokwena took Sundowns to the semi-final – an impressive achievement given that the Brazilians had always struggled to overcome what appeared to be a quarter-final jinx.

But the failure to get over the penultimate stage, via an away goals rule defeat to Wydad Casablanca after an own goal by Mthobi Mvala in 2023 and as well as an aggregate 2-0 loss to Esperance de Tunis this year proved their undoing.

Sure, Mokwena delivered the inaugural African Football League title and won the domestic championship at a canter. It is the premier continental club knockout trophy that Sundowns crave, though, and failure to deliver on that was always going to be frowned upon.

Whether Komphela will be able to help them towards that goal remains to be seen, but the good thing is that he is not new to the club. He returns after an absence of one season, his departure apparently brought about by a rift between him and Mokwena who felt he did not need him when he took over as the head coach.

Komphela left Sundowns in a huff last season to take over at Moroka Swallows, where he did not last too long as the club underwent financial difficulties that eventually resulted in the owners throwing in the towel and selling the elite league status to Marumo Gallants.

After Swallows, Komphela went to his former club Golden Arrows, who were having a hard time in the league, and he helped turn things around and got them to finish in ninth place.

His return to Sundowns came out of left field, just as Mokwena’s parting with the Brazilians stunned many. But it is clear that the Brazilians are still on the hunt for the main man to lead their fortunes into the new season, and the names of Benni McCarthy and Frenchman Patrice Cateron have already been thrown about.