Rhulani Mokwena coach of Orlando Pirates during the MTN8 2019 Quarter Final match between Orlando Pirates and Highlands Park Sporting on Saturday. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – The pain of a stressful couple of days for Orlando Pirates was clearly visible on Rhulani Mokwena’s face after Bucs’ loss to Highlands Park in the MTN8 on Saturday night at Orlando Stadium.

The loss to the Lions of the North compounded Pirates’ woes that started with a 1-0 defeat in the first leg of their CAF Champions League preliminary round tie against Zambia’s Green Eagles.

A demoralising 3-0 defeat by SuperSport United at Mbombela Stadium followed along with Micho Sredojevic’s abrupt resignation on the eve of their clash with Highlands.

Pirates were already on the backfoot when they entered Orlando Stadium. Highlands capitalised on that, dumping them out of the most financially rewarding cup competition in the country. Amidst this chaos, Mokwena find it difficult to talk about whether he is ready to step up to the head coach position having been elevated from the assistant role to fill the void left by the Serbian in the meantime.

“I think that after a performance like that and three straight bad results, it would be unwise to even start to think of myself. When you have been called to serve, you’ve always got to try to think less of yourself and try to put the team first,” Mokwena said.

“At this moment in time, it becomes difficult to detach myself from what the team is going through. As much as I can explain and elaborate what this means for myself, but as a club at this moment in time, we are feeling a lot.

“Regardless of how I feel and regardless of the honour bestowed upon me to lead an institution like this, it counts for nothing when as a club and an institution we are not in a good way. I am a part of that, so it becomes difficult for me to detach myself from this current situation.

We have to stick together and raise the level of the performance. The coaches, and 100 percent rightly so, will always say that the result are a reflection of the performance and in the last three matches we haven’t played the way we would expect Orlando Pirates to play even though today we were slightly better.”

Rhulani Mokwena coach of Orlando Pirates during the MTN8 2019 Quarter Final match between Orlando Pirates and Highlands Park. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Pirates have no time to drown their sorrows. AmaZulu are next on their schedule tomorrow in Durban followed by a return leg clash with Green Eagles.

“It certainly can’t be about me,” Mokwena said. “I am the last person to even think about myself, for us at this moment in time it is about how we help these players to be able to overcome the period that we currently face. How do we support them and how do we ensure that psychologically they don’t lose belief in themselves and the game model because when results don’t come you start to question and doubt, that doesn’t assist with regards to overcoming a situation.

For us, this isn’t about how do I feel, how am I adapting, at this moment in time I am just feeling for the players.”

Football Reporter