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Meet Rhulani Mokwena, The South African Manager Who’s A Total Pep Guardiola Copycat

Meet Rhulani Mokwena, The South African Manager Who’s A Total Pep Guardiola Copycat

Pep Guardiola has undoubtedly established himself as one of the best managers of all time with his ongoing decorated career. He’s the youngest manager to win a Champions League title and only one to guide two teams to European Trebles.

The Spaniard has guided Barcelona, Bayern Munich AND Manchester City to league titles, helping the Cityzens win the Premier League title for the last four successive seasons. He’s an inspiration for any up-and-coming manager around world football because of his tactical nous and ability to make his team an extremely dominant force.

But when it comes to South African manager Rhulani Mokwena, it appears that Pep is more than just an ‘inspiration’.

Mokwena has been the manager of South African heavyweights Mamelodi Sundowns FC since 2022, after working a few years before that as a ‘co-coach’. The Sundowns have dominated the South Africa Premier Division in recent years, having won the last three league titles.

Mokwena helped them win the 2023/24 title by finishing 23 points more than the second-place Orlando Pirates. They only lost one game in the 30-matches season.

But what makes the South African coach really stand out is how similar his quirky mannerisms is to how Guardiola behaves in public.

The 37-year-old gaffer is not just inspired by Pep’s management style, but also the way he carries himself in press conferences.

Mokwena seems to perfectly imitate the emotions of Guardiola and even his facial expressions.

He even manages to match the slight awkwardness the Spanish gaffer has in public conferences, as well as how Guardiola moves his hands around to make things clear in front of the media.

Not just that, but Rhulani even seems to dress similar to the Manchester City boss.

He often turns up wearing hoodies or sweaters like the Englishman and has even been accused of trying to produce the same English-speaking accent as Guardiola.

Mokwena even tries to copy the ex-Barcelona manager with his antics on the sidelines during matches.

That is because a lot of his ‘motivational’ actions in trying to energize the players come off as something Guardiola has done in his career.

Rhulani even amused a lot of fans after he started complaining about the exhausting schedule issues for his team exactly after Guardiola made a point about that after his side’s 1-0 win over Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final.

Mokwena has earned the hilarious nickname of ‘Pep Lite’ in South Africa for how often he tends to imitate the actions of Guardiola.

But he isn’t embarrassed by the mockery at all and proud to have learnt his traits from one of the best of all time.

Speaking about the comparisons to Pep, he told BBC Africa: “Pep is someone that I follow very closely. I’ve got huge admiration for him. He is an incredible football coach, so successful.. As a coach, you have to copy good things and learn from the best. But if something is working for you, you persist with it, you keep going with it. With football evolving, people are analysing you, which means you can’t play the same system. Rhulani is one coach who always looks further and, like people say, he is a fan of Pep. If it is working for you, why not copy it?”

In fact, Mokwena is also a big Jurgen Klopp fan and voiced his admiration for his ex-Liverpool gaffer by explaining: “I went twice to see how Klopp works and his technical team, and I learned so much. I also watch a lot of how Liverpool play. They haven’t had a very good season but they’ve been outstanding ever since Klopp arrived.”

To his credit, Rhulani has actually learnt extremely well from Guardiola. He has helped the Mamelodi Sundowns dominated the South African football scene over the last four years and win multiple trophies.

The 37-year-old gaffer still has a long career ahead and perhaps as he starts ageing, the South African will come out of this shell and start showing his own vibrant personality than imitating what Pep does.