Mokwena: Meet 37-year-old coach dominating South African football

Mokwena: Meet 37-year-old coach dominating South African football

Mamelodi Sundowns clinched an unprecedented seventh successive Premier Soccer League title on Thursday, May 2 with six games to spare.

The Brazilians saw off local rivals Kaizer Chiefs in style with a 5-1 win to secure the 2023-24 title but the team’s dominant style of play can be credited to 37-year-old coach Rhulani Mokwena.

Mokwena joined Sundowns as a co-coach in 2029 alongside Manqoba Mqithi and he has won the South African top-flight title every season since his arrival.

He is dubbed as one of the finest African coaches and nickname ‘Pep-Lite’ in South Africa.

In 2023, he guided Mamelodi Sundowns to win the inaugural African Football League which earned the club a staggering $4 million prize money.

Who is Rhulani Mokwena?

Mokwena is the son of former South African player, Julias Sono Hloae who played for Orlando Pirates for some time and his uncle, Jomo Sono was a three-time caretaker coach of the South African national team.

Mokwena started his coaching career early at the age of 27 as an assistant coach at Mamelodi Sundowns.

Who are Rhulani Mokwena’s mentors?

The 37-year-old was a protege of South Africa’s legendary coach, Pitso Mosimane and worked under him as Sundowns’ assistant coach from 2014 and 2017.

He was part of the backroom staff that led the Brazilians to lift their first ever CAF Champions League trophy in 2016.

Mokwena has publicly affirmed his admiration for Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and football enthusiasts have drawn similarities between the Mokwena and Guardiola’s pattern of play as well as

“Pep is someone that I follow very closely. I’ve got huge admiration for him. He is an incredible football coach, so successful,”he said in an interview in May 2023.

What is Rhulani Mokwena’s record at Sundowns?

In 2023, Mokwena-led Mamelodi Sundowns won the PSL title with seven games to spare and they have achieved a similar feat in 2024 but with six matches to go.

He has led Sundowns to reach the semi-final stage of the CAF Champions League in the last two seasons.

The Brazilians were knocked out in the last-four of the continental showpiece by Morocco’s Wydad Casablanca in 2023 and they suffered similar woe a year later against Tunisia’s ES Tunis.

Sundowns' South African coach Rulani Mokwena (top) is lifted by Mamelodi Sundowns staff members after their team won the African Football League (AFL) second-leg final match between Mamelodi Sundowns  and Wydad Casablanca at Loftus Versveld in Pretoria on November 12, 2023.

Despite the struggle to get into the Champions League final, Mokwena made history with his team by winning the newest club tournament in Africa – the African Football League in 2023.

He will also be leading Sundowns to the expanded 2025 FIFA Club World Cup in the United States of America.

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