JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates may have hit troubled waters in their last six matches, but coach Rhulani Mokwena has banked on the recent Fifa break to have brought a breath of fresh air to the club going forward.
Having finished second in the last two terms, Pirates were tipped to be the team that would stop Mamelodi Sundowns from domestic dominance this season.
That was motivated by the perception that the Sea Robbers would have blended together as a team after two full seasons under Micho Sredojevic and his assistant Mokwena. And those aspirations got off to a bright start as they defeated Bloemfontein Celtic 3-1 at home in their opening Premiership clash.
Soon after though, the wheels came off as they lost two successive matches, which were subsequently followed by the abrupt resignation of Sredojevic, who’s since joined Egyptian giants Zamalek SC.
Mokwena then ascended to the hot seat where he’s so far done little stamp his authority, as his Pirates side is yet to win the in the last four matches.
“We tried to psychologically work on the players because it’s important to remind them who they are, what they represent and the club they are part of,” Mokowena said. “We tried to bring back their confidence.
We focused on group dynamics, the moral and camaraderie within the squad. With the right spirit and if we don’t lose confidence, I think we can still compete for the league title.”
The time for Mokwena to hold the ropes at the club may have come under unpleasant circumstances, but there’s no time to sulk as he has to ace his new role to a tee for a number of reasons.
He is the latest product of a bloodline that have called Pirates home, considering that he’s the son of Julius “KK” Sono, which makes him Jomo Sono’s nephew and Eric “Scara” Sono’s grandson.
“I could have been at Bafana Bafana (as assistant) and I had job offers to go somewhere else to be head coach but I didn’t go, just for Pirates,” Mokwena said. “If you speak about loyalty and being a servant then actions should speak for themselves.
I am Orlando Pirates, until the club says I am no longer Orlando Pirates. I am here. I grew up part of the club, I feel the pain, joy, celebrations and ecstasy.”
Mokwena, 32, is one of the youngest coaches around and should he succeed, he would open the doors for many young coaches who have been looked down on because they don’t have experience.
Pirates will be hoping to return to winning way when they clash with Chippa United at home on Saturday (3pm kick-off).@Mihlalibaleka