PHOTO: Sundowns Twitter
On several occasions now, Mamelodi Sundowns co-coach Rulani Mokwena has been resolute in his posture that the Brazilians are looking to dominate the Premier Soccer League rather than make it a fair contest.
Anyone would think that to be a Jose Mourinho-esque comment, until they've had a look at the Sundowns squad. It's terrifying!
Downs not resting on their laurels with four consecutive league titles is testament to why they remain, yet again, favourites to win the DStv Premiership for another year, even with minor tweaks to the overall team.
Prediction, here we go! 🎙— Mazola J. Molefe (@superjourno) August 18, 2021
That’s my Top 6, the rest we will see…#DStvPrem #BazozwiDiski pic.twitter.com/3lFQIpBzpt
Despite rebuilding both in the boardroom and on the pitch, Sundowns seem no match for their rivals – this is part of the reason there continues to be immense pressure on Mokwena and his co-coach, Manqoba Mngqithi, to hold the bar steady where their counterparts can't reach.
Patrice Motsepe took over as CAF president earlier this year and the rules were clear that he would have to renounce his seat at the top of the Downs hierarchy, so his son Tlhopane stepped in to become the new chairman.
Like his father, he has been described by the duo of Mokwena and Mngqithi as a level-headed boss who wants nothing but success – almost a carbon copy of his dad if not hungrier because of his fresh ideas and young age.
The recent collaboration with Jay-Z's sports marketing agency, Roc Nation, has been credited to Tlhopane. The partnership will enhance the Downs brand and commercial sales.
In their efforts to try and guarantee the dominance, the technical team also began a pruning process of their own, which has no doubt ruffled feathers.
Out went Wayne Arendse, Anthony Laffor, Tebogo Langerman, Tiyani Mabunda and the late Anele Ngcongca, whose car accident happened days after his move to AmaZulu was all but confirmed early in October last year.
The most brutal of cuts has been that of captain Hlompho Kekana, who has spent a decade at Sundowns and won six league titles as well as the CAF Champions League at Chloorkop – you'd be forgiven for thinking he was going to play forever.
In came Rushine De Reuck, Divine Lunga, Sifiso Ngobeni, Grant Kekana, Khuliso Mudau, Mothobi Mvala, Aubrey Modiba, Neo Maema, Gift Motupa, Haashim Domingo, Peter Shalulile and Pavol Safranko in the space of a year.
Fresh, younger and, some would argue, hungrier. Just like the coaches (with Steve Komphela now added to the mix as senior coach) and junior Motsepe.
The first year of the transition – one that will be remembered for the shock departure of Pitso Mosimane to Al Ahly after he had in fact begun spearheading the rebuilding process of recruiting players that would reduce the average age – Sundowns won the league.
It says a lot about the prowess of the coaching staff to pick up from where their predecessor (whom they shared a lot of ideas with over coffee, puffy eyes and sleepless nights) left off and still go the entire marathon season of 30 games without losing away from home.
This doesn't mean, of course, that things have been a smooth ride – this journalist recently reported that there is discord between the three coaches; which is to be expected – they weren't going to see eye-to-eye on everything.
Naysayers point to the wealth of the Motsepe family and insist without that serious financial backing then Sundowns would be average. Maybe.
But that undermines the work ethic of Mosimane in the past, and Mokwena and Mngqithi in the present because Downs have a long list of high-profile European coaches who proved to be plumbers barely able to fix a leak.
It's when Motsepe appointed a local coach (and continues to have South Africans at the helm) that things looked up with title after title and the Champions League. Giving them carte blanche on assembling their own squad, to where they can discard club icons and veterans at short notice, has proven to be a masterstroke.
It is probably premature and a little forward to say it now with about 28 rounds of matches to go, but give Sundowns the league title already.