JOHANNESBURG – Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rhulani Mokwena believes that domestic and continental football are two very different propositions, and that’s why they’ll treat the two as “isolated projects”.
Having concluded the first half of the domestic season at the summit of the Premiership standings with an unbeaten record of five wins and three draws, the Brazilians will turn their focus to the gruelling CAF Champions League preliminary round qualifiers.
They’ll face Botswana side Jwaneng Galaxy away in the first leg of the last round of the qualifiers tomorrow at Lobatse Stadium (3:30pm kick-off). This will be Sundowns’ first game in this season’s competition after a bye in the first round.
But having had their focus solely on domestic football where they’ve started their title defence well, Mokwena is not banking on that form while on continental duty – saying each competition deserves special attention.
“The PSL and Champions League are completely different projects,”
“On the one hand, we have the feeling of being unbeaten and sitting as log leaders.
“Of course, no title has been won at this moment, that’s why we have to treat it as an isolated situation.
“We need to ensure that we get a good result in the game in Botswana. And we need to use the experience that we have to make sure that we qualify for the group stage.”
Mokwena knows that Galaxy won’t be pushovers as they are currently at the summit of the Botswana Premiership with 10 games remaining, and they trounced US Zilimadjou 4-1 on aggregate in the first round of the Champions League qualifiers in order to be drawn against Sundowns for a place in the group stage.
“Of course, Galaxy are a good team. But we’ll get footage from our analysts. We’ll focus on them more now that we are done with Golden Arrows and try to make sure that we are more prepared for the game. It’s going to be a difficult one,” Mokwena said.
“You can see with the Botswana national team, there’s resurgence in football. We have to make sure that we are well prepared. We’ve got our work cut out for us.
“We might not be in the best space emotionally, but we have to govern ourselves and get a very good result.”
In anticipation of their gruelling continental duties, the Brazilians rested some key men – like the on form Themba Zwane, captain Hlompho Kekana and Kermit Erasmus – during their 1-1 draw with Golden Arrows at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium on Saturday.
However, that meant there was space for starting debuts for Mothobi Mvala and Grant Mergeman.
The former scored on his debut, while Mokwena stressed about the importance of gradually integrating more newbies into the team.
“We’ve got a lot of depth in the team, and we are blessed to have that,” Mokwena said.
“The first thing we spoke about at the beginning of the season was that we don’t want too many players. And because of that, we got a situation where everyone wants to be part of the team and feel that they are contributing.
“And you can see that everybody is getting a chance.
“Of course, sometimes circumstances force our hand.
“It’s not just depth in terms of quantity but quality, it gives a possibility to try new things.
“And it gives certain players a chance to compete.”