Rulani Mokwena will face arguably his biggest test yet as head coach of Mamelodi Sundowns when he comes up against respected counterpart Florent Ibengé of Al Hilal.
Ibengé, who inspired DR Congo to a third place finish at the 2015 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, led Moroccan outfit RS Berkane to CAF Confederation Cup success last season, when they beat Soweto giants Orlando Pirates in the final. The 61-year-old Ibenge was successful in the Moroccan Cup as well, overcoming Wydad Casablanca in a penalty shootout.
Ibengé has tons of experience, having led his former club AS Vita to the CAF Champions League final in 2014, where they lost to Algerian side ES Setif.
Ibengé joined Al Hilal this season and the club is currently on a good run in the league, as they sit top of the standings.
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Sundowns have been cruising in the DSTV Premiership, but a side coached by Ibengé could give them a big test in their opening Champions League group B clash at Loftus this afternoon.
"I've got big respect for Ibenge. I first met him when we played Vita a few years ago. I was still the assistant at Mamelodi Sundowns and to see how his career has progressed and how he has done exceptionally well as an African coach is something that brings a lot of motivation and gives a lot of pride and gives good inspiration," Mokwena told media at Chloorkop leading up to this afternoon's clash.
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But as I always say, we give too much importance to coaches in South Africa and I don't think we are that important. The game belongs to the players and, at the end of the day, it's 11 versus 11 on the pitch. It's the Sundowns players versus the Al Hilal players and those are the people everybody pays money to come and watch."
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