Mokwena wants players judged on CAF present, not past

Mokwena wants players judged on CAF present, not past

In response to Mamelodi Sundowns fading in the latter stages of the CAF Champions League since winning the title in 2016, coach Rulani Mokwena insists this is an unfair assessment on his current group of players.

The Brazilians have again shot up to the summit of their group ahead of Al Hilal, Al Ahly and Coton Sport, but what will count is the knockout stages thereafter.

Downs were crowned champions seven years ago, but have been eliminated in the quarterfinal’s stages over the past two seasons. 

"For the majority of this team, it will be unfair to judge them on the past. You have to give them a fair chance to work, to play, to gain experience and to compete. The only way they can do that is to be on the pitch, play these types of games and feel this type of pressure," Mokwena said.

The question came after Downs held Ahly to a 2-2 draw in Egypt on Saturday night in what was an impressive display from the visiting team.

Mokwena wants to build on it. 

"We have to give them a fair chance. So, that's the opportunity that we gave them and as I said to you step by step we grow, game by game and we look to get better. Had we won, I would say the same thing, had we lost, I would also have said the same thing. We have to get better and we will always try to get better," he added.

Mokwena again singled out the Downs squad members playing in continental football as regulars instead of fringe players.

"Ronwen Williams is playing his first Champions League, Mudau (Khuliso) our right back last season competes with Thapelo Morena, first Champions League, Mothobi Mvala, first Champions League, played a little bit last season but not starting and consistently competing at this level. Neo Maema, first Champions League, Cassius Mailula, first Champions League, Teboho Mokoena, first Champions League, Aubrey Modiba, last season Lyle Lakay was the starting left back and Aubrey featured a little bit so this is his first Champions League," he explained.

Downs will host Ahly next month at Loftus Stadium where a win will take them to 10 points and all but confirm their progress to the quarterfinals.

"We worked very hard and my staff need a lot of congratulations because we worked very hard on this team. It's a good side with a good coach. I'm disappointed we only got one point because we wanted three. So, we'll go back now and recover. We have some games at home to try to deal with and then we'll prepare for Al Ahly so I can't really go into the strengths and weaknesses of the team," he concluded.