Rhulani Mokwena, the coach of Mamelodi Sundowns, has subtly urged the match officials to ensure fair play in the upcoming MTN8 final against Orlando Pirates. Although he did not explicitly state it, Mokwena’s comments can be interpreted as a plea or instruction to protect his team from rough play.
Mokwena expressed his hope for a good game of football, unlike previous encounters between the two teams. He acknowledged the strength of the defending champions and their talented players, emphasizing that this will be their third final as a group. Last season, Jose Riviero’s team clinched both the MTN8 and Nedbank Cup trophies.
While Mokwena praised the Buccaneers, he also engaged in gamesmanship, aiming to influence the match officials and unsettle the opposition. He emphasized the importance of a clean and physicality-free game, highlighting the history of severe injuries suffered by his team in matches against Pirates.
One such incident involved Haashim Domingo during the Carling Black Label Cup final, where he suffered a horrific tackle from Pirates defender Thapelo Xoki. Another incident was when Sundowns’ player, Abubeker Nasir, was injured in a clash with Pirates’ goalkeeper, Siyabonga Mpontshane.
While Sundowns may argue that the officials favoured their opponents in certain instances, such as not giving Ronwen Williams a red card for a challenge on Zakhele Lepasa, Mokwena hopes for a game that focuses more on football and less on peripheral controversies.
In terms of injuries, Sundowns are concerned about the fitness of Lucas Ribeiro Costa, their prolific goal-scorer. Costa left the pitch early in their recent CAF Champions League tie against Bumamura FC. Mokwena stated that they will wait until the last minute to assess his fitness and make a decision about his inclusion in the starting lineup.