Pressure talk doesn’t bother Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena

Thembinkosi Lorch won’t feature in Mamelodi Sundowns’ Nedbank Cup final against Orlando Pirates, says coach Rulani Mokwena. Photo: PHANDO JIKELO

Thembinkosi Lorch won’t feature in Mamelodi Sundowns’ Nedbank Cup final against Orlando Pirates, says coach Rulani Mokwena. Photo: PHANDO JIKELO

Published May 31, 2024


Rulani Mokwena is not apologetic about Mamelodi Sundowns’ incredible run in domestic football.

Hence, he’s confident heading into the Nedbank Cup final tomorrow.

Sundowns will face Orlando Pirates in the Ke Yona Cup decider tomorrow afternoon (3pm kick-off) at the Mbombela Stadium as favourites to clinch yet another trophy.

The Brazilians were crowned the champions of the land in the DStv Premiership for the seventh time in a row last Saturday.

Sundowns had a brilliant season, so much so that their only blemish was losing the final game – 1-0 to Cape Town City – at home.

That result stung Mokwena as he cut a dejected figure deep in the bowels of the Loftus Versfeld stadium during his media address after the game.

But having soaked up the disappointment of missing out on an “Invincibles” league campaign, Mokwena was back to his jovial self during his pre-match press conference at the Nedbank headquarters in Sandton yesterday.

Not only did he reflect on their league season with glee, but he looked more like himself than last Saturday.

He was back to playing with his hands, aligning the mics and recorders of the media corps, while doing his best to listen and answer every question profoundly.

“We’ve been by far the best team this season, and I am not apologetic to say that. The log never lies,” Mokwena said.

Mokwena, at the relatively tender coaching age of 37, has thrived under pressure – winning the inaugural African Football League and Premiership.

His only shortcomings this season were in the MTN8 final, CAF Champions League semi-final and Carling Knockout Cup quarter-final.

Mokwena admits he’s always been hard on himself, and no one can push him even more – not even the media.

“I think the other day, I think Shupi (Nkgadima, the team’s media officer) came to me and said, ‘Someone from the media says coach Rulani is under pressure’,” Mokwena said.

“But no one can put pressure on me. I put more pressure on myself than anybody else. And if I am under pressure, what about the people who are 23 points behind us?

“I am generally asking. Honestly, I don’t know. In the 24 hours of the day, 20 hours, I can guarantee, are devoted to Sundowns.”

— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) May 30, 2024

Mokwena is not getting carried away thinking that he’s bigger than the management, players or Yellow Nation of Sundowns.

So much so that while he could win a treble by beating his childhood club Pirates tomorrow, he’s focused on serving the Brazilians’ cause rather than personal ambitions.

“I am the least important person at Sundowns – the least important! So, what it means to me and doesn’t is probably the furthest thing from my mind,” Mokwena said.

“The issue of internalising the fixture is egotistical in a sense, and I don’t want to go that route because football is not about that.”

Mokwena doesn’t put himself nor a player before the club’s image, and that saw Thembinkosi Lorch not being available for selection in Mbombela.

After Sundowns’ coronation on Saturday, a video of Lorch celebrating with women and drinking alcohol went viral on social media.

Lorch was celebrating his first major title with Sundowns – and championship medal – after joining the club from Pirates during the January transfer window.

Mokwena, though, said the 30-year-old will not make the 18-man squad for the final against his former club.

“Is he available for Saturday? No!” said Mokwena, before declaring that “he is injured and was also removed from the group”.

“I say this all the time, when it comes to players, he’ll get no negative words from me to the media.

“The space when I become open and honest with them is when I close my office, and have a face-to-face conversation with them.”