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Speculation linking Steve Komphela to Pirates did not disrupt Sundowns, insists Rulani Mokwena

Mamelodi Sundowns co-coaches Steve Komphela, Rulani Mokwena and Manqoba Mnqgithi.
Mamelodi Sundowns co-coaches Steve Komphela, Rulani Mokwena and Manqoba Mnqgithi.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/ Backpagepix/Gallo Images

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena says the intense speculation that linked co-coach Steve Komphela to Orlando Pirates during the off-season did not have an adverse impact on their preparations for the new campaign.

In June, Mandla Ncikazi surprisingly joined Pirates from Golden Arrows and the move was followed by speculation that he would be joined by Komphela. But the envisaged move never materialised.

Speaking before Sundowns’ MTN8 semi-final first leg clash against Arrows at the Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium on Sunday, Mokwena said they were not bothered by the speculation.

“For us, it was business as usual because we don’t respond to speculations,” he said.

The speculation, which could be unsettling to teams, happened while Sundowns were in preseason and the technical team was busy with the hard decisions regarding player transfers.

“We don’t live in a space where we allow speculation to derail us from where we are trying to go. We are ambitious, this season we are extremely hungry, we want to be the best and we want to work hard for that.

“We don’t want to be deviated or sidetracked by speculation, our focus is on making sure we do the best that we can. Not just for this club but for the president, the chairman, the fans and everyone who is associated with it.”

As they prepare to face unpredictable Arrows, coach Manqoba Mngqithi said this week that the players have not yet reached the desired fitness levels.

“At this stage of the season, it is not always about the highest level of fitness, this team managed to play 120 minutes against Chiefs in the MTN8. You can’t say that our performance against Chippa United was down because of fitness levels.

“I think the condition of the players is OK, but it can still improve. There might be other teams that are looking very sharp and are already at the highest gear, but we know our marathon.

“We know that we have to build the fitness levels, until we reach the point where we want to arrive at. As coaches we are happy with the progress the team is making, unfortunately in football when you don’t win a match it is easy to go to fitness and other things. But the fact is that we are happy with the fitness of the team.”