Mokwena wants football to do the talking in MTN 8 final

Mokwena wants football to do the talking in MTN 8 final
Khuliso Mudau with Rhulani Mokwena, Head coach of Mamelodi Sundowns and Themba Zwane of Mamelodi Sundowns during the 2023 MTN8 Final Mamelodi Sundowns Media Day at the Chloorkop, Kempton Park on the 04 October 2023 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

by Staff Reporter

Friday Oct 06, 2023. 11:20

Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Rulani Mokwena is hoping the referee doesn’t steal the spotlight in Saturday’s MTN 8 final against Orlando Pirates at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Kick-off is at 6pm CAT (SA, GMT+2)

The two teams square off for the second time in a fortnight, with the Brazilians having emerged narrow 1-0 victors in the DStv Premiership on September 20 courtesy of Lucas Ribeiro’s 12th-minute penalty.

Officiating had been a talking point in their previous encounters and Mokwena felt that Pirates players weren’t sufficiently punished for overly-physical challenges which resulted in injuries to Haashim Domingo, Abubeker Nasir and Marcelo Allende.

Sundowns are bidding for their fifth title after beating Moroka Swallows and Kaizer Chiefs in the last two rounds, and Mokwena wants football to take centre stage for a change.

“We know the magnitude of the final and we will go for it. Hopefully it is a very good game without harassment of referees and without the physicality of over-the-top tackles,” he said.

“You know in almost every game against Pirates, we lose a player with a very severe injury. You know, Haashim Domingo in the Carling Black Label. Nasir is still not here because of the situation with [Siyabonga] Mpontshane.

“In the last game, [Nkosinathi] Sibisi took Marcelo out on the halfway line with a studs-up, two-footed tackle and Marcelo has not really recovered from that.

“I am hoping for a game that does not have too much of those, so that the people talk about the football and less of the handbags, the things on the periphery. Hopefully, that’s the type of game (good football) we get to witness.”

The Buccaneers are the defending champions and they’re chasing down Chiefs’ record of 15 final victories, with last season’s 1-0 triumph over AmaZulu taking them within four of equalling the haul of their arch-rivals.

Jose Riveiro’s side were beaten 1-0 by Stellenbosch in the semi-final second leg, although a 2-1 win in the first leg saw them through to a second consecutive final appearance.

Pirates, who thrashed Sekhukhune United 5-0 in the quarter-finals, are playing in their third final under Riveiro and the Spaniard is relishing the clash with Masandawana as he believes they bring the best out of his players.

“It’s nice to play against Sundowns because they are a team that ask many different questions during the game as we [also] do, so I think it’s also attractive for them to play Pirates,” he said.

“It’s always a thing that after this game, both teams are better teams, in my opinion. It’s the first time that we meet them in the final (since he joined at the start of last season) and I think that will bring about differences in approaches or maybe not… I don’t know.

“We know each other very well. I think there’s big respect between us. That means we are both spending time analysing each other and trying to understand what we are both doing.”

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