PIC: Rulani Mokwena‘We got the tactics right’ – Rulani Mokwena

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena has had a roller-coaster time of late, seeing his dream of lifting the CAF Champions League evaporate, before his side claimed a record-extending seventh DStv Premiership title win in a row.
He has taken a step closer to more silverware after his side advanced to the final of the 2024 Nedbank Cup with a 2-1 victory at Stellenbosch FC on Sunday.

His former club Orlando Pirates await in the June 1 decider at the Mbombela Stadium, what will sure to be an epic occasion to close the season.
He offered his views after the win over Stellenbosch.

You came through the semifinal despite some tough moments, including a missed penalty by Peter Shalulile. Does that show the mental strength of your side?

We have special players, unbelievable. I don’t know how they keep doing this, you know, keep going every two three days. They are real mentality monsters and I’m very proud of them. And I think they deserve to be in the final. I think we got the tactics right, we spent a lot of time watching Stellenbosch. There wasn’t a lot of time to prepare on the pitch, but we use that time for video. They are a very awkward side and get too many numbers. But with the numbers they have, they have fast players with huge capacity to arrive in your box. But I think that we got the tactics, right. The game became a bit complicated after we missed the penalty. But, you know, it’s bittersweet because I’m very proud of Peter with a difficult run. still putting up his hand and saying, ‘I want to take it’. I’m very, very proud of him for showing that mentality.”

The game might have been different has Divine Lunga been sent off for two bookable offences. You were quick to take him off in the first half … 
I think even before I go to the second incident, I thought the first yellow was a bit soft, maybe it’s a little bit too harsh. Especially also a profile of the game. But he puts himself on the edge when he goes for the second situation, but it also starts because we allow the ball to be delivered into that area. I thought we were we were spot on with our subs today. There were a lot of small details that we had to pay attention to. And I thought today we were we were spot on with it. Maybe you’ve got to compliment the referees for trying to manage the game of a semifinal, leaving at 11 versus 11. And maybe not causing as much controversy as we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks. But like I say, my first instinct is that maybe the first yellow card was a little bit soft. And maybe then when he goes for that second one, that’s the one that he should have gotten a yellow for.

How have you handled these last few weeks with the highs and lows your side has been through?

It’s been a roller-coaster ride. The next day after winning the league at training, Ronwen Williams says to me, ‘Hey, can you smile a little bit’. And I said to him, ‘in the good moments, I try’. And I’ve learned this because I’ve failed so many times. When you live life, you experience more failures than successes. And what that teaches us that in the good moments, you’re not too high. But also in the bad moments, you’re not too low. And I think that helps you live in a space of equilibrium. You know, you move with life and you accept. That’s the way I approach life, I focus on the things I can control, which is the work ethic, the intensity, the energy, the lineup, the tactics, the watching the games, the training sessions, those things I put 100% focus on, and then the rest is for the universe to decide.

Have you now managed to put the CAF Champions League semifinal loss to Esperance behind you?
No, I’m still reeling. And I’m talking personally, I’m still reeling. Someone tried to console me and said to me, ‘you’ve got a double already, you’ve got the AFL (African Football League). And you’ve got the league title. So why are you still reeling’. But I must say to you, I feel like I’ve let the club down, I feel like I’ve let the supporters down. I feel like I’m let this this group down, because it is my job to lead. And when we fail, it’s my job to stand in front and assume the responsibility.


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