Rulani reckons Bucs still have chance to win league

Downs co-coach enjoys not having to do the chasing in title race

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Loquacious Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena has sounded bemused by the notion that his former side, Orlando Pirates, are out of the title race.

Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer has ruled his side out of the title race and many see second-placed AmaZulu as the only team who stand a realistic chance to challenge leaders Sundowns for the DStv Premiership title. The Buccaneers welcome the Brazilians at Orlando Stadium on Sunday (3pm).

Mokwena has begged to differ with those who say the title fight is now a two-horse race between them and Usuthu, counting Pirates, Golden Arrows and SuperSport United as contenders. Fifth-placed Pirates are on 39 points, nine behind leaders Sundowns.

“I think if I was at Pirates I'd say to myself that it would be nothing but a disaster not to consider ourselves to be in the title race. Mathematically it's still very possible that they can still win the title. That also goes for SuperSport and Golden Arrows,” Mokwena said yesterday.

“I would think the standard that they've set... the work that they've done, the recruitment that they've made and the investment that has gone into the club this season should suggest that they should be winning more games and they should be putting more pressure [on their title rivals].”

Due to a backlog in league fixtures caused by their presence in the CAF Champions League, in recent seasons the Brazilians found themselves having to do the chasing in the title race. However, this season they're the ones who are being chased and Mokwena likes that, feeling it comes with less pressure.

 “History dictates that we've been chasing in the past. I can assure you that the pressure of chasing is far worse than the pressure of being on top. I'd always like to be No 1 because at this moment in time we have our own destiny within our control.” 

Going into the game against Pirates, Sundowns have suffered a mild slump in form, having not won in the past three league games with one defeat (2-1 to Kaizer Chiefs) and two goalless draws (against AmaZulu and Arrows). Even so, Mokwena's co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi sees no reason to panic.

“There's no need to panic. We are still in control. We have to continue fighting hard, as we've been doing. Our focus is on Pirates now, nothing else,” noted Mngqithi.

Mokwena also revealed that talisman Peter Shalulile could return against Pirates after completing the full training session yesterday. The Namibian ace missed Downs' last two games against Chiefs and Arrows after picking up an injury. 

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