Tiring Downs soldier on with quadruple in sight

Rhulani Mokwena argues with referee Jelly Chavani during the DStv Premiership clash against Moroka Swallows. | BackpagePix

Rhulani Mokwena argues with referee Jelly Chavani during the DStv Premiership clash against Moroka Swallows. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 17, 2024



The pressure that comes with Mamelodi Sundowns being perennial contenders to win the quadruple doesn’t faze the team, says Rulani Mokwena.

Sundowns’ local dominance, which has seen them win the DStv Premiership for the last six seasons, is well-documented.

But they want to take that up a notch this season, and add the Champions League and Nedbank Cup to the African Football League (AFL) title that they’ve already won, with the league title all but secured.

Rhulani Mokwena argues with referee Jelly Chavani during the DStv Premiership clash against Moroka Swallows. | BackpagePix

The Brazilians are where they want to be: winners of the inaugural AFL, top of the log standings, and in the Nedbank Cup and Champions League semi-finals. Coach Mokwena’s men will meet Stellenbosch in the Ke Yona Cup but before that they’ll turn their focus to African football on Saturday.

Sundowns left for Tunisia yesterday where they’ll face Esperance in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final eager to take a huge morale boost to the second. And for a team that has matches almost every third day either here at home or on the continent, it’s no wonder that Sundowns are fatigued.

But Mokwena says that they can’t rest on their laurels now as they have to ensure that they please the spiritual owners of the club: the Kabo Yellow Nation.

“I think they are responding well and that’s the most important thing for us. No one is going to feel sorry for us,” he said after Monday’s 2-2 draw with Moroka Swallows in the league.

“We must continue to represent this club in every single game the best way we possibly can … we do it for the fans. We make sacrifices for them.”

Lindokuhle Mtshali of Moroka Swallows argues with the assistant referee during the match at Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto on Monday. | BackpagePix

Sundowns’ exhaustion has been visible in their performances in the last few games as they struggled to find the net as easily as they used to. But after scoring two goals for the first time in more than a month in the draw with the Dube Birds, Sundowns took a huge morale boost with them to Tunisia.

“It’s good that we scored two goals. We also scored in open play. We could have scored more goals – we created a lot of chances,” Mokwena said.

“I thought against Tuks (in Friday’s drawn Nedbank Cup match that Downs won on penalties) we created better situations. We had some good moments. But the players are trying. I can’t fault them for their effort.”

The scoreline could have been better for the Brazilians against Swallows but they were let down by individual errors in front of goal.


Thembinkosi Lorch, Peter Shalulile and Lucas Ribeiro could have done better with their finishing. But Mokwena is not crucifying his troops for not being clinical.

“I don’t know how to answer that but what I know is that I am very patient with the players. They are also patient with me,” Mokwena said.

“When they make mistakes, I’ll always protect them. To play the number of games that they are playing (is not easy). I was happy with the performance today.”

Sundowns thought they had won the game against Swallows, but referee Jelly Chavani made a controversial call that denied them the win.

Mokwena feels that Gabadinho Mhango’s goal should not have stood as he was coming from an offside position before Divine Lunga headed the ball towards him. Mokwena is also irked by the fact that Chavani consulted with his officiating team before finally giving the goal, whereas the PSL is yet to implement VAR.

“The AmaZulu coach was complaining, poor guy. I’m not going to do that, I won’t cry but will tell you as it is, unfortunately for the first time,” Mokwena said.

“I speak for the first time because that is very bad. It’s not a mistake, the assistant ref puts the flag (up) for offside, and then they consult. Who are you consulting?

“Who is Jelly consulting? You tell me. He went to the assistant ref. VAR? We have VAR in South Africa all of a sudden?”