Manqoba Mngqithi was effectively demoted by Mamelodi Sundowns on Monday, relegated down to third in the coaching stakes as Rulani Mokwena takes overall command, the club announced in a shock response to their MTN8 elimination at the weekend.
The decision comes in the wake of the 3-0 pasting handed to Sundowns in Saturday’s MTN8 semifinal, second leg tie in Polokwane, although the club said the changes in the coaching hierarchy were “necessitated by the poor performances and unconvincing victories that the club has experienced for quite some time”.
Mngqithi, 51, had been appointed co-coach with Mokwena when Pitso Mosimane departed in 2020 and the pair had won the last two DStv Premiership titles together, while also last season sweeping the board by adding the two domestic competitions –MTN8 and Nedbank Cup — to their honors’ board.
But the hope of success in continental club competition – which had been the club’s priority – had been elusive as they went out at the quarterfinal stage to Mosimane and his Al Ahly side in 2020 and then in a surprise exit to Petro Atletico of Angola this year.
Mngqithi was seen as the senior of the two pair having served as Mosimane’s deputy, a foil to the more youthful and theory-orientated Mokwena, who is 15 years his junior.
There were reports of occasional bust-ups between them but these quickly papered over and as they share duties engaging with the media, built up the impression of a working relationship that while not always harmonious was effective.
Not long after their appointment, owner Patrice Motsepe had added Steve Komphela to the coaching mix as “senior coach”, a title given to deflect the image that he was coming in as the pair’s deputy after a long-standing career as head coach at the likes of Free State Stars, Maritzburg United and Kaizer Chiefs.
Komphela was viewed as the coach best suited to relate to the players, given his stellar career as former Bafana Bafana captain ad playing overseas in Turkey in contrast to the fact that Mngqithi had evolved into a full-time coach from a career as a schoolteacher while Mokwena also never played at a professional level.
The 55-year-old Komphela will now be No. 2 to Mokwena while Mngqithi is relegated to the senior coach’s role.
The exact wording of the Sundowns statement was: “Rulani Mokwena will take over the responsibility of Head Coach at Mamelodi Sundowns, Steve Komphela will be promoted to become First Team Coach and Manqoba Mngqithi will be the Senior Coach which is the position previously occupied by Steve Komphela. The Goalkeeper Coach, Wendell Robinson will stay in his current position.”
The statement added: “Mamelodi Sundowns has a clear objective of becoming one of the most successful football clubs in Africa and its recent average and lackluster performances are contrary to this objective”.
The changes are with immediate effect, with Sundowns to play at Maritzburg United on Tuesday and then at Royal AM on Saturday.
Mokwena has previously been a solo head coach at Orlando Pirates, winning four of 15 games in the 2019-20 season and then one game at Chippa United before the Covid-19 pandemic.