Coach Mokwena anticipates things to get difficult next season

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Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena has achieved a lot in almost his first full season as a solo head coach of the club.

The COSAFA Men’s Coach of the Year has already won two titles and has reached the semifinals of the CAF Champions League and also reached two domestic Cup Finals this season. But he anticipates that next season will be an extremely difficult one for him.

Mokwena took over as the solo head coach midway through last season, after co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi was demoted, and hit the ground running.

This season was his first full season as a solo coach and he guided his team to win the domestic DSTV Premiership title, the African Football League title, and reached the semifinals of the CAF Champions League.

Mokwena also helped Sundowns to reach the MTN 8 Final so far this season and will also play Orlando Pirates in the final of the Nedbank Cup final at the Mbombela Stadium on the 1st of June.

“I met an old man at the airport today he is a former coach and he is very well known in SA football and he said to me the late Clive Barker said to him after he won his first league title that your life will change completely and from now on things will be extremely difficult for you and he gave me words of advice to which I am very grateful for,” says Mokwena.

Video: Sundowns F.C. coach expects tough time ahead

‘My mind never sleeps’

Mokwena started his professional coaching career in the youth systems at the now-defunct Silver Stars before serving as an assistant coach at Sundowns under Pitso Mosimane. He then went on to coach Orlando Pirates and Chippa United before returning to Sundowns.

Mokwena says he is working extremely hard to improve the team. “My mind never sleeps I am always trying to find solutions I am always trying to help the players and club to be better I am always trying to help the team to play better,”

The 37-year-old is the youngest coach to ever win the league title in the history of South African football. He says he draws inspiration from some of the top coaches in the world including Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti.

“I am always trying to understand and learn especially from some of the best coaches in the world the other day I was listening to Carlo Ancelotti’s interview I think he is going to his fifth Champions League final and he has won league titles everywhere but he has had his ups and downs and a few years ago he was Everton manager and then he went on to represent Real Madrid and win Champions League it shows that the job of coaching is not linear it has its ups and downs,”

The current COSAFA Coach of the Year almost joined Mosimane at the Egyptian team Al Ahly a few years ago. Mokwena changed his mind when he was at the airport and said he did not regret the decision he took.

“There is a feeling that you are where you are supposed to be and everything happens for a reason and I don’t regret and even though I haven’t thought about where the journey might have ended there is still a huge sense of appreciation and gratitude for where I am today,”

Sundowns have qualified for the expanded FIFA Club World Cup in the USA next year despite failing to win the CAF Champions League once again. And Mokwena is looking forward to meeting his favourite coach Pep Guardiola from Manchester City.

“Yes, I am very excited and do you know what excites me even more, meeting Pep Guardiola.”

Mamelodi Sundowns are still on course to finish the 2023/24 DSTV Premiership season unbeaten and become the first team to achieve that feat.

The Champions are also chasing the PSL record tally of 71 points they set themselves in the 2015/16 season under Pitso Mosimane.

The Brazilians will meet Royal AM in a league match at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Tuesday evening.