Mamelodi Sundowns’ quest for invincibility faces rotation challenges

Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Rulani Mokwena has delved into the intricate challenges his team face in maintaining their unbeaten streak in the DStv Premiership.

The Brazilians, fresh from a triumphant return to the CAF Champions League with a convincing 3-0 victory over Nouadhibou, confront a tactical puzzle as they resume their Premiership campaign on Wednesday.

Mokwena, steering his team through the complexities of post-FIFA break dynamics, expressed concerns about squad rotation. Injuries to key players Mothobi Mvala and Aubrey Modiba, incurred while on duty with Bafana Bafana, have added a layer of complexity to his strategic decisions.

The 36-year-old coach faced the challenge of resting other players, including Themba Zwane and Teboho Mokoena, who had participated in consecutive FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

“I’m not so sure whether rotation is the right thing in big clubs, because of cohesion, chemistry, fluidity,” Mokwena remarked, highlighting the delicate balance between squad rotation and maintaining team synergy. Drawing from past experiences, he emphasized the pitfalls of excessive changes, recalling instances from the previous season where Sundowns dropped points and suffered elimination in the Nedbank Cup quarter-finals due to alterations in the line-up.

“It’s not like we’re handing out appearances, we’re not in that space for charity,” Mokwena asserted, emphasizing the meritocratic nature of football. Negotiating the fine line between player satisfaction and the competitive demands of the sport, he acknowledged the complexities of managing a team of individuals while upholding the principles of meritocracy.

The coach found solace in the silver lining, commending the performance of players given opportunities due to rotation. “I’m happy when these type of situations happen where we try to make human beings happy by giving Neo (Maema) a chance to play, (Sphelele) Mkhulise, Mosa (Lebusa), Rushine (De Reuck),” Mokwena added, applauding the depth of his squad for maintaining high standards even in altered line-ups.

As Sundowns gear up for the Tshwane Derby against SuperSport United at Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium, Mokwena faces a critical juncture in balancing continuity and adaptation. Their flawless eight-game run in the Premiership hangs in the balance, putting their quest for invincibility to the test. The clash with neighbours SuperSport United becomes a pivotal moment for Sundowns as they navigate the delicate dance between consistency and strategic adjustments.