Rulani Mokwena explains how Sundowns gets it right in defence

21 September 2021 - 07:02
By Tiisetso Malepa
Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena has explained how the team has been resolute at the back conceding zero goals in four Premiership matches.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena has explained how the team has been resolute at the back conceding zero goals in four Premiership matches.

The Mamelodi Sundowns defence has not been breached in four Premiership encounters in the new season and co-coach Rulani Mokwena has explained how the team works behind the scenes to improve the rearguard.

Sundowns have scored six goals and conceded none in their opening four league matches, with three of those coming against TS Galaxy in an easy 3-0 DStv Premiership win at Loftus on Sunday.

Mokwena said the way a team defends is a reflection of what it does when not in possession, and he detailed how Sundowns go about their defensive set-up.

“We have certain skills in our plans. Without exposing too much, it is clear that we don’t defend from the defensive line and we don’t rely only on our goalkeeper,” said Mokwena after Denis Onyango kept his fourth successive clean sheet, with centre-back Mosa Lebusa and striker Peter Shalulile and Thabiso Kutumela getting on the scoresheet.

“If I remember correctly, apart from one or two headers from [Bosnian defender Igor] Makitan on dead-ball situations, I think Denis has only pulled off one very big save.

“And to restrict a good side like TS Galaxy into one big chance over the 90 minutes reflects how important our overall organisation is.

“The way you defend is a reflection of what you do when you are in possession of the ball and we are very clear on that and our relationship between what we do in possession, how we use the ball and what positions we take up.

“We know that it then influences the breakdown and the reaction thereafter when we are out of possession.

“So a lot of the work that we do in the team is about our offensive principles, then your offensive principles immediately reflect when you are out of possession.

“There is clear relationship and all big teams have this.”

Sundowns lost just one Premiership match and conceded just 14 goals on their way to a record-breaking fourth title last season and Mokwena said the team is still reaping the rewards of their defensive organisation from last season.

“It is just a continuation because the principles [of not conceding too many goals] were set last season and it helped us to only lose one match in domestic competition and concede only 14 goals.

“We are good. We have got a top team with top individuals and human beings.”

Mokwena said their defensive work starts with their strikers, who are asked to press opponents from up front.

“Those are very important. It is not just about the quality, it is about the hard work in terms of the concentration and discipline. But in all honestly, the work starts up top with our front line.”

Ahead of their titanic league clash against Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday, Mokwena admitted that the strong financial muscle that Sundowns have has helped put the team head and shoulders above the rest.

It is this strong financial muscle that Sundowns believe they owe their dominance to on the domestic circuit, and at times on the continent, over the last few seasons.

“Well a lot of people say it is the resources we have and it is true. We are blessed to have the leadership that we have.

“We are blessed to have a leader in the chairman [Tlhopie Motsepe] to support us as much as they support us.

“The management of the club, and really you can’t speak in isolation with regards to the success of this club.

“Ours is to try and continue the success that was achieved by our predecessors and fulfil the objectives that are set by this big institution.

“We are fortunate we came into a club that has got a well-established culture, a culture that was embedded by a relentless work ethic.

“We are good. We are where we are at this moment in time, the league is a marathon and we have got to be professional and diligent.

“Now it is about resting and recovering then we analyse the game [against TS Galaxy] and we check the corrections that are needed and we prepare for a very difficult game against a good side in Orlando Pirates.”

Sundowns face Pirates in their next Premiership game on Saturday at Orlando Stadium in Soweto.