One more hurdle for ‘proud’ Rulani Mokwena’s Mamelodi Sundowns to join Invincibles club

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena hugs Peter Shalulile after the striker scored a late equaliser against TS Galaxy on Tuesday. Photo: BackpagePix

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena hugs Peter Shalulile after the striker scored a late equaliser against TS Galaxy on Tuesday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published May 23, 2024


The hitherto unbeaten Mamelodi Sundowns are on the verge of establishing themselves as the ‘Invincibles’ of South African football.

With one match left on the DStv Premiership calendar, Sundowns are about to complete an entire league season without losing a game – a feat never achieved before in the annals of local football.

This is arguably one of the most impressive achievements a football team can pull off.

If Sundowns defeat Cape Town City at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (3pm kick-off), they will join Europe’s elite six teams who have gone through the league campaign unbeaten: AC Milan (1991/92), Arsenal (2003/04), Juventus (2011/12), Celtic (2016/17), Rangers (2020/21) and Bayer Leverkusen (2023/24).

The all-conquering Masandawana have passed several milestones in the past few weeks. On Saturday, they could pass a few more to become the undisputed champions of South African football and become the country’s greatest ever club.

The Brazilians broke the record for the 16-team era of the Premiership last weekend when they defeated Stellenbosch 1-0 at Athlone Stadium.

Victory over City on Saturday will see them pass the 75-point mark, set when the league previously consisted of 18 clubs. In that case, they can end the season with 78 points.

However, victory against Eric Tinkler’s team won’t be a foregone conclusion.

Sundowns were five minutes away from defeat against TS Galaxy on Tuesday night.

After Galaxy opened the scoring in the 78th minute, Namibian Peter Shalulile scored an equaliser five minutes from the end.

Sundowns dominated the match, as reflected by the stats, which showed that they enjoyed 69% possession.

Strangely, though, Galaxy had more shots on target, and one of these came within a whisker of ending up in the net early in the match.

The match, however, left a sour taste in the mouth of their coach Rulani Mokwena.

After the match, he declared the 1-1 draw against Galaxy was the “worst game of football” he has ever been a part of.

“It’s the worst game of football I’ve been involved in from many aspects,” said Mokwena.

“But I have to, at the same time, congratulate this group of players. They were unbelievable. They just refused to lose.

“I am so proud of the Sundowns players, proud of the Sundowns family, and everybody there. We fought very, very hard, and I am very proud of them.

“There is not much to say about the game. I am not involved in football for these type of matches.

“I don’t want to speak too much about the match. The Tash (Tashreeq Matthews) incident in the first half is a clear penalty, and the Siyabonga Mabena incident in the second half is a clear penalty.

“So many fouls went against us. Marcelo Allende gets stamped on his hands and he gets a yellow. They score and the whole bench jump into our faces and show disrespect.

“I don’t like that … I am not involved in football for that. I love football for friendship, for memories, the purity of the game and the joy it brings to people. Playing TS Galaxy at the moment is torture that I don’t enjoy.”

There was no praise for Sundowns from TS Galaxy coach Sead Ramovic on the night when his opponents extended their unbeaten league run to 53 games, stretching back to last season.

But that didn’t bother Mokwena.

“I don’t worry about TS Galaxy … I have to worry about Sundowns because I am employed by Sundowns. Even with the feelings I have, I have to be proud of my players because it was a difficult game for them,” he said.

“It was tough emotionally and physically, but they dug deep and they showed incredible mentality – and that is the feeling I want to leave Mbombela with.

“I want to leave Mbombela with pride, gratitude and appreciation for the efforts and the hard work of these special Mamelodi Sundowns players.”