Orlando Pirates head coach Rhulani Mokwena during the Absa Premiership 2019/20 football match between Amazulu and Orlando Pirates at King Zwelithini Stadium on 20 August 2019 /BackpagePix

DURBAN  – It is time for Rhulani Mokwena to prove his worth following the abrupt departure of Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic as the head coach of Orlando Pirates.

The management at Pirates have entrusted Mokwena with the responsibility of restoring the Buccaneers back to the pinnacle of local football. It is a massive responsibility that comes with immense pressure for the 35-year-old coach. The age of 35 is when many footballers consider retiring from playing but Mokwena’s rise to prominence in the sport has been unique because he has emerged as a brave tactician with the ambition of becoming one of the greatest football mentors in South Africa.

He’s worked under Micho’s leadership for two seasons in Parktown but analysts have credited him for the Buccaneers’ brand of attacking football recently. The Sea Robbers have been consistently playing an attractive high-paced attacking game and have been unlucky not to win any trophies in the last two seasons. They came close on three occasions, finishing second in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons. Last season Bucs’ luckless spell continued to haunt as they lost in the final of the Telkom Knockout against Baroka FC via penalties.

In as much as Pirates were showing signs of progress during the tenure of Micho and Mokwena, speculation was always rife that the former Mamelodi Sundowns assistant coach was the one dictating terms at the club.

While Micho bore the brunt of the condemnation for the team’s poor results at times, Mokwena always seemed to be received kid-gloves treatment from the supporters and enjoyed a hero status whenever the club did well. The pair, however, appeared to be working well together despite the allegations that might have tarnished their relationship.

Mokwena has not shied away from making controversial remarks, showing that he is ready to be thrust into the limelight of the sport. Last season he publicly accused Kaizer Chiefs' ex-coach Giovanni Solinas of being tactically inferior ahead of a Soweto derby.

His opinion divided the country with some soccer lovers accusing him of being arrogant while other concurred with him. Others suggested that he needed to apply for a head coach position somewhere to prove how good he is.

Interestingly, when Mokwena vacated his position at Sundowns as assistant coach to take over the same position at Pirates, football loving people predicted difficult times for the Brazilians without his services but they have continued to be dominant without his presence.

Pirates have entrusted Rhulani Mokwena with the responsibility of restoring the Buccaneers back to the pinnacle of local football. Photo: BackpagePix
Pirates have entrusted Rhulani Mokwena with the responsibility of restoring the Buccaneers back to the pinnacle of local football. Photo: BackpagePix

Bafana Bafana star midfielder, Bongani Zungu wrote on his Twitter account last year that Mokwena is the one coaching Pirates and he had made a significant contribution when Sundowns won the Absa Premiership, CAF Champions League and the CAF Super Cup. That statement didn’t go down well with many supporters who believed the young mentor was being given undue credit.

So, now is the time for Mokwena to walk the talk and paddle Pirates onto the podium for some silverware.

All eyes are on Mokwena. He has to deliver the goods for the Buccaneers. The only way he can silence his critics is by helping the Sea Robbers to shore and end their trophy drought. 

It won’t be easy, the stress that comes with coaching Pirates alone is enough to drive seasoned coaches insane.

@Minenhlecr7


The Mercury

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