Mamelodi Sundowns showed ‘a good mentality’ to bounce back in Champions League group

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena praised his players for their mentality against TP Mazembe. Picture: Ayman Aref / NurPhoto via AFP

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena praised his players for their mentality against TP Mazembe. Picture: Ayman Aref / NurPhoto via AFP

Published Mar 4, 2024


Rhulani Mokwena, the Mamelodi Sundowns coach, praised his team's bravery in the group stages of the CAF Champions League.

On Saturday, Sundowns gained revenge over TP Mazembe with a 1-0 home win at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville, Pretoria. In December, TP Mazembe defeated Sundowns 1-0 in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, despite the visiting South Africans dominating throughout.

The only other Group A setback for Sundowns was a goalless draw against 10-man Pyramids FC in December. Saturday’s clash was the clubs’ final Group A match and Sundowns finished as the group winners, with 13 points, followed by TP Mazembe.

Both teams had already qualified for the quarter-finals before Saturday’s match.

After the match, Mokwena recalled the team’s setbacks midway through the season.

“Congratulations to the club,” said Mokwena.

“I think we were in a difficult group but we have done exceptionally well to finish top of a very difficult group. We bounced back from the result against Pyramids and the away result to TP Mazembe.

“We showed a good mentality to bounce back and congratulations to the team and the club as a whole for the achievement. We stressed the importance of winning today’s match, and we achieved that.

“We took risks but that is how big teams must play. We came with bravery and courage.”

At the post-match presser, the media contingent asked Mokwena how he felt about being praised by opposition coaches.

“I get very worried when I hear the praises from people,” said Mokwena.

“I am not used to love and praise. I always say to the players to be careful of praise because it is like being fed honey with a knife.

“I keep looking around once people start to lavish me with praise because before they kill you, they pat you on the back. I would rather have people who come straight and show that they hate me or hate the team. It is better, that is much better.

“The praise sometimes puts you in a false sense of security especially when you believe the hype. I don’t listen too much to praise.

“I prefer the criticism and the hate. It is much better for me. It drives me. It makes me want to prove a point.

“I don’t listen to the praise, but I appreciate it. We accept it with a lot of humility but not too much of it because it is very, very dangerous.”

Sundowns and TP Mazembe (DRC) will progress to the knockout stage along with Simba, Young Africans (both Tanzania), Al Ahly (Egypt), Esperance (Tunisia), Asec Mimosas (Ivory Coast) and Petro de Luanda (Angola).

The big shock was Wydad Athletic Club, last year’s runners-up, failing to make the last eight. Wydad knocked out Sundowns in the semi-final round last year.

CAF will announce the date for the draw of the quarter-finals in the coming days.

Sundowns, meanwhile, turn their attention to the DStv Premiership with a midweek fixture at the Mbombela Stadium against TS Galaxy.