Rulani Mokwena: The supremacy wars pushing Mamelodi Sundowns coach out of the club

The highly-rated tactician is on the brink of being dismissed by the Brazilians

Mamelodi Sundowns are reportedly in talks with coach Rulani Mokwena over his departure from the club in what is a shocking decision involving the highly-rated tactician.

The official position is that Mokwena has not met the targets and is not aligned with the club’s transfer strategy so the Brazilians are looking elsewhere.

However, Afrik Foot has learnt that the main reason for Mokwena’s departure is that he does not see eye-to-eye with Sporting Director Flemming Berg because he feels undermined.

Mokwena is not happy that Berg is identifying and signing players without his input, forcing him to work with talents that do not align with his philosophy.

“The coach has had it at Sundowns, he said last month that he might not be at the club next season,” a source told Afrik-Foot.

“You will remember he had a good relationship with the Sporting Director when Sundowns did the [technical team] restructuring.

“But their relationship broke down when Flemming started to feel the players that are being signed by Rulani don’t help the club and he hasn’t been giving him a go-ahead with other [potential] signings.

Sundowns reportedly in talks with Rulani Mokwena over potential exit
Rulani Mokwena – Photo by Icon Sport

‘There's signings the club is planning to make that the coach wasn’t aware of’

“As we speak, there are signings the club is planning to make that the coach wasn’t aware of. So, Rulani wasn’t happy about that.

“Him and the Sporting Director just don’t agree with a lot in general. So, he couldn’t abide by Flemming’s word and chose to leave.”

Flemming joined Sundowns last September after working as Head of Elite Football Development at the Danish Football Association for seven years and had an initial good relationship with Mokwena.

However, things started going south in recent months when he started questioning some of the players brought to the club by the 37-year-old coach while assuming a more hands-on approach to transfers that has angered the tactician.

Mokwena has found himself in a position where he has to abide by the Sporting Director’s word, something he does not agree with, leading to the fallout.

As it is, Mokwena has become isolated at the club with even first team coach Manqoba Mngqithi, who has been overseeing training since the players started pre-season, in the same camp with Berg.

The last straw for Mokwena has been during this transfer window when the club has released players without his blessings.

Bongani Zungu who has left Mamelodi Sundowns. Photo: Icon Sport
Bongani Zungu who has left Mamelodi Sundowns. Photo: Icon Sport

Mokwena was not happy with the departure of Bongani Zungu

Sundowns have parted ways with defender Brian Onyango, midfielders Bongani Zungu and Gaston Sirino as well as striker Thabiso Kutumela. Zungu’s departure has particularly left Mokwena unhappy as he did not wish to lose the player.

With the two camps not agreeing, Berg is emerging as the winner of the supremacy wars with the club opting to cut ties with Mokwena, who still has three years remaining on a contract he signed before the start of last season.

Mokwena has led Sundowns to back-to-back PSL titles, winning the 2023-14 crown with a record 73 points, when they nearly completed the campaign unbeaten before Cape Town City spoiled their party with a 1-0 win on the final day.

He also guided the Brazilians to the inaugural Africa Football League crown after a great run that included wins against Petro de Luanda in the quarter-finals, Al Ahly in the semi-finals, and Wydad Casablanca in the final while they are due to play in the expanded FIFA Club World Cup next June.

Rhulani Mokwena Mamelodi Sundowns

Even more impressive for Mokwena is how he has improved the players at the club while his attractive style of football has made Masandwana a joy to watch around the continent.

However, his failure to win the CAF Champions League during his stint at Sundowns has been used as the stick with which to beat him with Berg also pointing to it as one of the objectives that were not achieved.

Having built a well-oiled Sundowns machine that is revered in Africa, Mokwena will not be short of suitors while the club have a big job in finding the right replacement.

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Joel Oliver

Joel Oliver is a seasoned multimedia sports journalist with a rich background in covering diverse football stories and events in South Africa and beyond.

His extensive coverage spans subjects touching on the PSL, with a focus on the Big Three (Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs & Mamelodi Sundowns), Bafana Bafana and Banyana Banyana.