When the SuperSport TV cameras eavesdropped on the team talks before Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City could take the penalty shoot-out where Downs claimed the MTN8 3-2 after the game played out to a one-all draw in extra-time, Rulani Mokwena was seen in high spirits motivating his players.
The Sundowns co-head coach does not recall what he said to his players but is glad that his speech did not fall on deaf ears.
“You can give the best speeches and sometimes the players don’t respond but fortunately they did. What matters is the performance and the gallant fight from these players because we as coaches are just there to facilitate good performances but the spotlight must go the likes of Andile Jali, Denis Onyango and Themba Zwane, who at this moment is unstoppable, you have to kick him and foul him,” said Mokwena.
Onyango was the hero for Masandawana as he saved five penalties, while Jali was the first to convert his spot-kick after the first four takers fluffed their chances. There was some protest from City, claiming that Onyango had stepped off his line before Thamsanqa Mkhize could take his shot – but in the absence of Video Assistant Referee in the country, decisions like these will always be up for debate. Nonetheless, Mokwena still parades the goal-minder as the hero of the day as he was named Man-of-the-Match.
“Denis is a beast, he always comes to the rescue of the team and that is why he is one of the best on the African continent because time and time again he saves the team,” said Mokwena, who went on to laud Jali’s “soldier-like” performance. The former Orlando Pirates midfielder has been a mainstay in the heart of the Brazilians’ midfield, and Mokwena explains why.
“The reality is that you run out of superlatives to describe Andile’s performances, not just in the final but in the last couple of games he has been incredible. He gives us a lot of personality and courage. It is very easy to be a leader in good moments but Andile is a leader in bad moments as well and he is not afraid to stand up and be counted. Those are the kind of people you need in your change room because when the going gets tough, he is always prepared to fight for the team.”