Sundowns coach Mokwena steps up the mind games ahead of cup clash against Pirates

14 April 2021 - 13:39
By mahlatse mphahlele AND Mahlatse Mphahlele
Rulani Mokwena has intimate knowledge of the inner workings at Pirates as he was part of the club’s technical team for almost two years and served as assistant to current coach Josef Zinnbauer.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix Rulani Mokwena has intimate knowledge of the inner workings at Pirates as he was part of the club’s technical team for almost two years and served as assistant to current coach Josef Zinnbauer.

Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena has stepped up the mind games ahead of his side's Nedbank Cup quarterfinal clash against Orlando Pirates at Loftus and said their rivals will be fresher on Thursday.

Mokwena dismissed the assessment by Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer that Sundowns are favourites.

“If you look at these two teams‚ it is clear which one goes into Thursday’s match fresher than the other‚” said Mokwena who predicted how Pirates are going to line-up.

“They have played five games in 30 days and we have played five games in 20 days‚ that already alludes to what we have. If you look at just over a week or so‚ Pirates will be playing their second match and we will be playing our third.

A closer look at the statistics shows that Pirates played five matches, against ES Setif of Algeria‚ Enyimba of Nigeria‚ Kaizer Chiefs and Ahli Benghazi of Libya, twice, since March 10.

During the same period‚ Sundowns featured in eight matches, against Polokwane City‚ Stellenbosch‚ TP Mazembe of the DRC‚ Black Leopards‚ Al-Hilal Omdurman of Sudan‚ TTM‚ CR Belouizdad of Algeria and Chippa United.

“If there is any form of advantage‚ I would think Pirates have a huge advantage, even in relation to the previous fixture they played on Sunday.

“On Monday they had what we call an invisible training session‚ which is about regeneration‚ massages and all those things to freshen up the squad up.

“When they were recovering‚ we were playing against Chippa United and 48 hours after they recovered, we were travelling from Gqeberha to Johannesburg.

“If you go into this fixture on Thursday with the advantage‚ it is very difficult to be the underdog.

“It could be physical‚ tactical or technical perspective‚ but it is what it is and it will have a huge influence on the performance of both teams.”

Faced with their second match in four days‚ Mokwena said they were not complaining about their fixture backlog.

“We are not complaining and we understand that pressure is a privilege.

“We understand that we are here at Mamelodi Sundowns and here we don’t just compete but we have to dominate.

“When the players were offered contracts by the club‚ they knew the responsibilities‚ the schedule and that it is not always easy.

“You can see how difficult it is for players like Rushine (De Reuck), who was used to playing maybe one match a week, but now has to transition and be consistent every two days to help the team.

“It goes to Peter Shalulile‚ but we give time to these players to transform and to settle a little bit and the best way to settle is by performances.

“We are called and yet we are chosen, and the chosen ones have to carry the pressure of being chosen.

“Being at Mamelodi Sundowns comes with pressure and heavy is the head that carries the crown.”