Mamelodi Sundowns’ Rulani Mokwena: What’s important in SA, result or style?

Teboho Mokoena opened the scoring for Sundowns with a terrific strike against SuperSport, and could be a key figure against Maritzburg United on Sunday. Photo: BackpagePix

Teboho Mokoena opened the scoring for Sundowns with a terrific strike against SuperSport, and could be a key figure against Maritzburg United on Sunday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Mar 15, 2024


Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena says drawing matches is a national catastrophe for the club, given their dominance over the past few years.

Sundowns have been the team to beat in Mzansi for the past six seasons, thanks to a winning streak of six championships in succession.

And having shown no signs of slowing down as they are closing in on a seventh title, Sundowns have been on everyone’s lips – expected to always win.

Mokwena’s men have embraced that challenge, so much so that they are expected to compete for the other remaining trophies – the CAF Champions League and Nedbank Cup – as well.

The Brazilians are in the Champions League quarter-finals, where they’ll face Tanzanian giants Young Africans over the two-legged contest after the coming Fifa break.

Before that, though, Sundowns must direct their focus to the Nedbank Cup last-16, where they’ll host Maritzburg United at home on Sunday night (6pm kick-off).

The DStv Premiership, Champions League and Nedbank Cup are a different kettle of fish, given the gulf in competition and opponents.

With Sundowns having drawn 1-1 with neighbours SuperSport United in the league on Tuesday, they’ll have to turn their focus to second-tier side Maritzburg United.

But knowing the expectations that come with being Sundowns – the team who’ve won every league title in the past six years – they must be at their best on Sunday.

“We must always (win)... we don’t have a choice. When you draw a game at Sundowns, it’s a national catastrophe,” Mokwena said.

Mokwena knows that they won’t always get it right. Sometimes, they’ll be at their best and not win matches, or vice versa. But that too is lambasted by the locals.

“It’s very difficult in South Africa because sometimes you are winning and people say, ‘But you didn’t play well’,” Mokwena explained.

“And when you play well and don’t win, people say ‘But you’ve got to win’. You ask yourself, what’s important in South Africa: the result or the style?”

And having only laboured for a draw against SuperSport – where Bafana star Teboho Mokoena opened the scoring with a terrific strike from long range – Mokwena was pleased with his team’s performance as they churned out some eye-catching performances.

“I told them (on Wednesday) that I wasn’t happy with the result (on Tuesday against SuperSport),” Mokwena said.

“But when I look at the result, I get emotional. When I look at the performance, having watched the game without any personal connotation, I am happy.

“I am happy with the things I didn’t see – the application, the brotherhood, performance and the effort. There are certain things that you get to see live.”

And while it will be important for Sundowns to live up to their impressive style of play against the Team of Choice, it will be more important for them to win.

Clinching the trophy will not only come with a cheque of R7 million for the Brazilians, but whichever team faces them in the final will also win big.

Apart from getting the losers’ prize and silver medal, the losing finalist will also qualify for the CAF Confederation Cup – adding more South African representatives on the continent.

Mokwena has since called on his charges to step up, given that matches are also coming thick and fast at this stage of the season.

“We just must continue with these things and have the same mentality. Every single game for Sundowns is tough. And we must win every single game,” he said.

“We must prepare in that way, and we need everybody. Now everybody must raise their hands and say, ‘I am part of this team’.

“We are looking forward to facing Maritzburg United, it should be a very interesting one. They are a good team with PSL experience, and they have very good players.

“They also have a very good coach (Simo Dladla) who has very extensive experience in this competition and the PSL, so we will have to come well prepared in order to beat them.

“It’s another game where we just don’t have to win, but must perform well. And make sure that we get a good result.”