Mamelodi Sundowns shift focus after advancing to CAF Champions League quarters

Mamelodi Sundowns' Themba Zwane in action during a CAF Champions League. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Mamelodi Sundowns' Themba Zwane in action during a CAF Champions League. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Published Feb 26, 2024


Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Rhulani Mokwena could not contain his joy after the club sealed qualification for the CAF Champions League knockout stages.

The Brazilians qualified alongside Group A leaders TP Mazembe with one match left to play after dispatching Mauritian club Nouadhibou away in difficult conditions.

Other clubs to qualify for the quarter-finals are Egyptian giants Al Ahly, 1998 winners of the competition Asec Mimosa from Ivory Coast and Tanzania’s Young Africans, who made it this far for the first time in their history.

Sundowns scored a goal in each half as Grant Kekana and Thembinkosi Lorch confirmed their place in the last eight for the sixth time in a row. Speaking after the match at Cheikha Ould Boïdiya Stadium, Mokwena expressed his delight at his players’ performances.

“Our players put in an incredible effort and delivered a great performance, controlling chances in both the first and second half. The subs were also fantastic and brought good energy to the pitch.”

Following a loss to Mazembe and draw at home to Egyptian-based Pyramids, worries surrounded the Sundowns camp ahead of their trip to the north-east. Mokwena admitted that his side knew they were in for a dogfight coming up against a side that had won six of their last 10 outings in all competitions.

“I want to extend my gratitude to our opponents for being very competitive and to the people of Nouadhibou for their warm hospitality and treatment during our stay in Mauritania,” he said.

“We commend our opponents for being a difficult team. We knew coming here that having not lost in the group stages at home, in the league for 12 games, it was certainly not an easy feat to come here and secure this victory, and so big compliments to our squad and the entire football club.”

When quizzed about Sundowns’ winning ingredient that has seen them become one of the most formidable sides on the continent, Mokwena was very brief in stating, “The secret is we work very hard and we have very good players”.

With qualification already sealed, it remains to be seen whether Sundowns will try to beat Mazembe and claim the group in their final showdown, which would require a full-strength squad.

However, Mokwena refused to be drawn into those conversations as he turned his attention to the midweek DStv Premiership match against AmaZulu.

“Before we can do anything else, we need to get home and prioritise recovery; we have a long 11-hour flight to get home. After that, we need to watch this game and analyse our performance.

“We have a midweek match against AmaZulu. We need to take it one game at a time and see what we have to do against Mazembe. Our first priority, however, is to recover. We should make sure to stay hydrated, rest on the plane, and watch the game so we can be well-prepared for the midweek fixture against AmaZulu.”


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