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Rulani confirms rift in Downs coaching ranks

Mokwena insinuates Mngqithi was at fault

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Mamelodi Sundowns co-coaches Rulani Mokwena, Manqoba Mngqithi and Steve Komphela.
Mamelodi Sundowns co-coaches Rulani Mokwena, Manqoba Mngqithi and Steve Komphela.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Rulani Mokwena has implied it was his Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Manqoba Mngqithi who was in the wrong as the club’s key technical panel members were recently reported to be on a collision course.

Reports of a discord between Mokwena, Mngqithi and senior coach Steve Komphela surfaced this week, putting into doubt the working relations of the three men who led the Brazilians to DStv Premiership glory last season.

Speaking in a virtual media conference to preview their much-hyped league clash on Sunday against Kaizer Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld Stadium (5pm), Mokwena didn’t just concede there had been disagreement among them but he insinuated it was Mngqithi who was at fault.

“To be honest with you, maybe this question [about the discord between them] should be given to coach Manqoba because what was reported in the media, there’s an element of truth to it, but for me the coach apologised and we move on and we focus on what’s important for Sundowns and that’s it,” said Mokwena.

The coach also took to Twitter to answer specific questions on the matter. Responding to a suggestion that he was toxic, he wrote: “I’m toxic because I spoke the truth when I was asked a question. Maybe we are a country that doesn’t appreciate honesty.”

His admission of the rift was a direct contradiction to what Komphela had said on the same issue the previous day, dismissing it as “nonsense”. Mngqithi has yet to comment on the matter.

Despite the simmering chaos, Mokwena painted a picture they still had enough time to analyse Amakhosi. The ex-Orlando Pirates trainer broke down how Chiefs’ way of play had changed under coach Stuart Baxter.

“We’ve watched Chiefs extensively. There’s a lot of work that has been done… there’s big, big improvements in relation to how they play… coach Stuart Baxter with his technical team have done a very good job, said Mokwena.

“Before the coach [Baxter] arrived they were averaging 40 passes before a box entry… now it’s 34 passes. They take a little bit less now, 110 seconds before they’re in your box, creating a chance, as opposed to their 146 seconds that they used to take before.”

The Sundowns co-coach also detailed how the recent Fifa break had benefited them in terms of preparing for this big game. Mokwena revealed the break had mostly assisted them to integrate injured players with the rest of the squad.

“The biggest priority was to make sure we get some of our players on the injury list back. We tried to work on the rehabilitation of Mshishi [Themba Zwane], [Musa] Lebusa, [Gaston] Sirino… we tried to make sure they’re back and ready.”

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