Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena expects tough outing against 'sharp' Arrows
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena is expecting his team's defence to be tested by attacking Golden Arrows in their MTN8 semifinal first-leg clash at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium in Durban on Saturday.
The Brazilians, who have enjoyed unparalleled domestic success over the past five seasons, have strangely never lifted the MTN8 trophy in its current guise and will have to be at their best against the 2009 champions.
“Traditionally, it’s not easy to prepare for Arrows because they have had a distinctive way of playing,” Mokwena said.
“I think it’s synonymous with how they are known as ‘Abafana Bes’thende’ — they play with a little bit of exuberance and play a little bit off the cuff. Even when they try to have some organisational forms, they still try to maintain the flair and the expressive abilities of their players, and sometimes that’s where it can be a little difficult to prepare.
They counter-press very well and their fullbacks are very important. They average about 18 crosses into the box, so it’s a team where we know what to expect, but controlling that is the most difficult thing in football.Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena
“They’ve got a very good team and a very good coach, with a good assistant. They counter-press very well and their fullbacks are very important.
“They average about 18 crosses into the box, so it’s a team where we know what to expect, but controlling that is the most difficult thing in football.”
Sundowns have played three competitive matches since the season started and Mokwena said the Brazilians remain a work in progress.
“Going into the Chiefs match [a penalties win in the MTN8 quarters] we anticipated it would take us five or six games before we hit top gear and our performances so far have shown us that we were correct.
“We are trying to work in a very systematic way and trying to be a bit scientific about how we go about the season because our form guide informed us that after a good start we had a dip in form towards the end of the season [in 2020-21]. To try to find a little bit more consistency we altered the way we are working."
Mokwena said Downs' medical team are dealing with their niggling injuries.
“We had a rest day [on Wednesday] as we travelled from PE and the players who needed medical attention received it. Regarding the players who were left behind, as of yet we still have not received information about their readiness. They will be assessed by our medical department.”