JOHANNESBURG - He might have put a disclaimer prior to his bold statements yesterday, saying that he was biased due to his relationship with Steve Komphela, but Orlando Pirates' assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena stopped short of saying Kaizer Chiefs made an error in appointing Giovanni Solinas three months ago.
The Italian took over from Komphela, who resigned in April after three seasons without a trophy, and has since joined Bloemfontein Celtic. Mokwena, speaking ahead of the Soweto Derby Absa Premiership fixture between the Buccaneers and Amakhosi on Saturday, was asked how the two clubs have improved since they last met seven months ago (a game Pirates won 3-1) and he couldn’t resist drawing comparisons between Komphela and his successor.
“I think there are two ways to look at it, and honestly, for me - and without sounding biased - losing Steve Komphela was a big loss for Chiefs from a technical perspective and the type of leader that he is as well as the tactical acumen that he possesses,” Mokwena said. “I think in that regard, if you compare the previous team to this team - from an organisational perspective, you can clearly see the lack of a coach of that calibre.
"Without taking anything away from the current head coach, but I do think with Steve you can see how they played last season and this season, from the minute details, the loss that has taken place.”
Mokwena has said before that he owes Komphela, 51, for his growth as a coach after the latter roped him into his technical team while at Platinum Stars some nine years ago. The Pirates assistant coach went as far as insisting that perhaps the only thing Chiefs improved on was signing new players - match winners - that Komphela did not have.
“In the playing personnel that they have they have made huge strides,” Mokwena argued. “They have improved drastically. The acquisitions that they have made have probably covered for the lack of tactical expertise on the bench, that was there last season.
"I don’t want to make it sound as if the players that were there last season were not as good as the ones that are there now. But you have even heard Solinas himself say this numerous times, if you bring Khama Billiat, Leonardo Castro and Lebo Manyama to Chiefs you have made great strides to improve the team.”
He said these acquisition were likely to help them end a trophy drought that ultimately forced his good friend and mentor Komphela to quit. “They are obviously going to influence results,” said Mokwena.