Rulani Mokwena aims to lead Mamelodi Sundowns to CAF Champions League altar

Thapelo Morena (left) and Tashreeq Matthews (bottom) scored the goals for Mamelodi Sundowns against Sekhukhune United on Tuesday. Photo: BackpagePix

Thapelo Morena (left) and Tashreeq Matthews (bottom) scored the goals for Mamelodi Sundowns against Sekhukhune United on Tuesday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Apr 25, 2024


FOR a bachelor, Rulani Mokwena sure knows a lot about the art of wooing.

Should he decide to go the marriage route, the Mamelodi Sundowns coach is unlikely to struggle finding a mate.

And it will not be his coaching success or good looks that will do the trick, though those are sure to come in handy too.

As he tries to emulate his predecessor Pitso Mosimane and bring the CAF Champions League title home to Chloorkop, the young coach likened the pursuit of continental glory to courting a potential marriage partner.

It takes time, patience, perseverance and a lot of dates – he has figured it out.

Mokwena will lead Sundowns against Esperance in second leg of the semi-final of the continent’s premier club knockout competition tomorrow night needing to win at least 1-0 to stand a chance of reaching the final.

That result will force the match into a penalty shoot-out, with the aggregate score at 1-1, after Esperance won the first leg 1-0.

A 2-0 scoreline will see the South African champions winning 2-1 on aggregate.

Mokwena had just led a second-string Sundowns team to a 2-1 win over Sekhukhune United at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday night – with goals from Tashreeq Matthews and Thapelo Morena – to leave the Brazilians needing just two more victories to retain their DStv Premiership title.

— Mamelodi Sundowns FC (@Masandawana) April 24, 2024

Addressing the post-match media conference, Mokwena was at pains to make people understand that winning the Champions League was a tough undertaking.

“I just get the feeling that people think, ‘Ah, they’ll just win the Champions League’. It’s a very difficult competition,” he said, explaining for the umpteenth time this season that teams have got to have a relationship with the competition to eventually come right.

‘’When Jose Mourinho spoke of heritage, watch the European Champions League. You don’t have to go far – Real Madrid versus Man City (who met in the quarter-finals over the past two weeks). Man City were by far the best team over both legs by far but they’ve got no heritage (and were knocked out),” he said of the English team that only recently joined Europe’s top clubs after they were bought by the oil-rich Sheikh Mansour.

“Real Madrid have this (connection) with the competition and then the football gods say, ‘Oh, we know this guy, this one always buys us flowers and chocolates. And in difficult moments when the relationship is not so strong this one will never stray from us, he’s close’. And so what does it do? It favours that.”

He wants Sundowns to be like Madrid in terms of their relationship with the CAF Champions League.

“That’s the position we have to get to, where we are flirting with the Champions League so much that it decides to leave the north African teams and says, ‘Ah, I’ve found a new husband’.”

He knows exactly how to do that.

“We have to take it on dates all the time. Semi-final, semi-final, final, semi-final, final, we keep taking it out on dates. That’s what we have to do.

“Eventually it will say ‘yes, I do. We can now go to the altar’. Eventually, you are the husband.”

No doubt Mokwena would love for it to say ‘I do’ this campaign.

First, though, he must get Sundowns to the final, and that will require Masandawana to be much sharper and more incisive up front tomorrow night at Loftus Versfeld (8pm kick-off) than they were last weekend in Tunisia.

More importantly, they have to be impenetrable defensively so as to not allow Esperance to score.

Do that, and the wooing days of Mokwena’s CAF Champions League ‘bachelorhood’ would be nearly over.