JOHANNESBURG - Bernard Molekwa's unbeaten run against Mamelodi Sundowns brings great joy and concern to the Polokwane City coach.
The man who has served as captain, team manager and interim coach of the club before being given the job on a fulltime basis is unbeaten as Rise and Shine’s head coach against the Brazilians.
He started his tenure with a morale-boosting goalless draw with Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld in March last year. Molekwa’s voice was gone after that match due to how much he shouted from the side-lines. He had his voice when he left Loftus in September in the first half of the season after Rodney Ramagalela led Rise and Shine to a 2-1 win over his former team.
“Mamelodi Sundowns is one of the best teams in the country,” Molekwa said. “They have won the league more than any other team. They have won the CAF Champions League and the CAF Super Cup. To be unbeaten against such a team is a good feeling. But I don’t have to do much during that game because the players are motivated to do well against them.”
The problem for Molekwa comes after playing Sundowns. Last season the club went on a three-match winless run, losing two of those games after their goalless draw with the Brazilians. This season they went five games without a win after beating Sundowns, losing four games in a row before they were held to a 2-2 draw by Orlando Pirates.
“The problem is more mental than anything,” Molekwa said. “It’s something that I am working on with the players because they believe that if we can beat a top team like Sundowns that means we will easily get points against teams at our level. It’s a big challenge.
"I have been drilling the point that a win over Sundowns gives us the same number of points as a win against any other team. It’s not like that now that we have beaten Sundowns we will get six points instead of the regular three. We are working on ensuring that we don’t only do well against Sundowns but we also do well against other teams too because if we had done that this season we would be in the top eight.”
Rise and Shine host the Brazilians at Peter Mokaba Stadium on Saturday afternoon looking to not only keep their unbeaten run under Molekwa but also kick-start their march up the log from position 13 - four points ahead of bottom-placed Bidvest Wits. The Polokwane side though haven’t won a match in the league in their own backyard this season.
“It’s a worrying statistic,” Molekwa said. “We need to ensure that we change that in the second half of the season. We have been unlucky in some of the matches that we have played here at home. With more luck and better conversion, we would have turned the draws into wins and the losses to draws.
But there’s no point in crying over things that have already happened. We can only shape the future. We have a lot of ground to cover. We didn’t perform as well as we would have liked in the first half of the season. Our objective was to collect at least 20 points. We finished with five points less. We have to make up for the shortfall, starting with our next match against Sundowns.”