JOHANNESBURG - Bernard Molekwa credits motivation and hard work for going from having a sharp axe hanging over his neck to being two matches away from having a gold medal dangle on that neck by helping Polokwane City win their first trophy.
Rise and Shine stunned Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium on Saturday to eliminate them in the quarter-finals of the Telkom Knockout with a 4-2 win on penalties after the match ended 2-2 after extra-time. Polokwane will now fight for a place in the tournament's final for the first time in the club’s history, confident after claiming the scalp of the Buccaneers.
“As a team we feel that we can still improve,” Molekwa said. “We feel that we can achieve good things. Last season we finished well (by finishing sixth, the best finish in the club’s history). We wanted to start this season well to build on that performance, unfortunately it didn’t go as planned. We still have to work harder.
"In terms of the cup, it’s difficult for me to talk about the final before the semi-final. But if it happens that we go to the final, it would be good for the club. I believe that the club would grow. It would be good for the players because at the end of the day they are the ones who are putting in a lot of effort. I appreciate the way they are playing and the way they are behaving. It shows that if we work as a team and we are one, we can achieve a lot of things.”
Two months ago Molekwa didn’t look like he would still be with Polokwane at the end of the year, let alone achieve something with them after losing four matches in a row, which is disastrous for a coach of a club that has had eight coaches in the last five years and a string of others who served in the interim in between, including Molekwa. The fourth loss, against Cape Town City in September, was mired in controversy that led to the suspension of referee Cedrick Muvhali and assistant referee Patrick Jafta. An emotional Molekwa said such decisions could cost him his job. But he is still standing.
The club’s revival started with a 2-2 draw with the Buccaneers at Peter Mokaba Stadium in September as part of their five-match unbeaten run. Polokwane are unbeaten against the big “three”, having drawn with Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs in the league after beating Mamelodi Sundowns. The win over Sundowns went to their heads, making the players think that they had arrived - especially after their good finish last season. That hurt them as it was followed by a four-match losing streak.
“We were playing well but we weren’t getting the required results,” Molekwa said. “I always motivate the players. We always get motivation from management, that even if things aren’t going but we still have to regroup and make sure that we work harder. You will get nothing if you don’t work hard. The more you work hard, the more you will get positive results.
"In the games that we lost, we saw our mistakes and the areas we lacked in. We worked hard on those shortcomings. This shows that we are coming alright although we are not at that level that we want. But the good thing is that we are able to get results. We will keep working hard and we believe that we can improve as a team.”