Mamelodi Sundowns claimed 1-0 victory over Maritzburg United on Wednesday evening to stretch their unbeaten streak in the DStv Premiership.
Masandawana were presented with a tough Maritzburg side for most of the first half in their return to league action, however they displayed a more dominant second half performance as the encounter progressed, limiting United’s shots on target and creating more goal scoring opportunities which led to a brilliant goal from Peter Shalulile. Downs Coach Rulani Mokwena was pleased with how his players dealt with their opponent’s rotating structure and challenges.
“[This] was a difficult game against a good opposition with a good coach – a coach that we’ve got a lot of respect for and someone that I think adds a lot of value to South African football and not very easy from a tactical perspective to dominate a team like this. It was very difficult for us as a team because we were the only team that was really responsible for setting the intensity and the tempo of the match, that’s not always easy but we did that very well especially in the second half, adapting to the flexibility and the constant changes in the formation from the opposition is also not easy. They started with a back four, then they went into a back three and then ultimately finished the game with a back four again.”
The Brazilians’ co-coach didn’t shy away from praising the brilliance of his troops who displayed a competitive mentality and bravery, having played in a cup final three days ago, the defending champions showed that they were prepared for the evening’s showdown. Coach Rulani said, “The game belongs to the players, they are the ones that play and do the running and work extremely hard in preparing for the match. They are the ones that sit for hours doing corrections, they sit for hours analysing the opposition and they take their careers very seriously, everything that you see is as a result of the profile and the hard work of these amazing football players.”
“I don’t think as a football nation we give them the praise and the credit that they deserve, they are disciplined, committed and extremely focused. You can see it even in today’s match where it’s very easy to just turn up and go through the motions of winning a cup final, but they came and they performed, they deserve all the credit, they are top professionals and we are very fortunate as a football club to have such amazing human beings serving the badge and giving their all on the pitch.”
Bafana Ba Style are flourishing in their competitions and showing signs of brilliance in their attempt to dominate on the African stage. After waiting for more than a decade to get their hands on the MTN8 trophy, leading the Premier Soccer League and securing a place in the CAF Champions league group stages, Coach Rulani outlined the structures that are supporting the team behind the scenes.
“The conditioning department [just] like every other department here at Mamelodi Sundowns is doing a fantastic job, as a club and as an institution we are fortunate that we have top professionals and this is not only in the conditioning department. There’s the analysis department, the maintenance department on the pitch that is responsible for how the pitch looks and make sure that we have the right conditions, there’s the security department who also work tirelessly to make sure that the players are in a serene environment and can focus only on performing. There is also the medical department that’s working extremely hard in making sure that the players return back fit, strong and without possibilities of re-occurrences of injuries. There is the management department who assists in facilitating a lot of very good work that is done behind the scenes and the senior management, (so) it’s a complete team performance, no man is an island at Sundowns, we are all just as important.”
During the transfer window Masandawana announced multiple players that they had signed as part of their plans for the 2021/22 season and the future, the presence and talent of the newly signed players is noticeable at Chloorkop. Coach Rulani attributed the success of their new talent to the warm welcoming of the senior team members at Downs.
“I think whatever we speak about in relation to the performances of the new players we mustn’t forget about the importance of the players that were here the last season, these are the players that have ensured that it’s easy for the integration of the new players and they make the environment conducive for the integration and adaptation of these new players and without speaking about them it becomes difficulties to speak about the new players. The most important thing of any player being integrated into an existing group, the most important thing in that space is making sure that you can buy in through effort, commitment and training attitude and buy the confidence and trust of your teammates. They’ve done exceptionally well in doing that, they’ve still got a lot to improve and the good thing is they have the right level of intelligence to be able to accept that.”
He added: “We want to create a team that is very difficult to play against and that people don’t enjoy playing against, so far the players have taken that mandate and transformed it to the pitch and into performances. At the end of the day you need good players to get good results, that’s what we have, we have very good players and I feel strongly that they don’t get enough praise and the due appraisal from the South African Football community.”
Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies recently won the Hollywoodbets Super League with just 22 games played in the domestic league, resembling their male counterparts and dominating the field, coach Rulani shared his praise to the women’s football team as they prepare themselves to compete in the CAF Women’s Champion s League in Egypt.
“We are very proud of them, they continue to raise the flag of this beautiful institution. Congratulations to Coach Jerry who is not just a colleague but somebody that I admire and have huge respect for. He’s consistency, his mentality and his ability to transmit this incredible spirit into our women’s team, they are very important with regards to setting what we consider football heritage and at the same time we appreciate the pressure that they put on us because the more they win, is the more pressure have to continue to win so iron sharpens iron and we are just very fortunate that we can call them our sisters and in a very humble we want to congratulate them and wish them all the best in their endeavours, particularly on the African continent.
“They know what they have to do, it’s so clear that they have to continue to win and all we can do is wish them the best from us as the senior team, the players and the technical team, we say to them, continue raising the flag, not just of this beautiful club but also of the country.”