The Orlando Pirates coach applauded his players despite being booted out of two tournaments. Photo:

JOHANNESBURG – Rhulani Mokwena is unfazed by the baptism of fire he has endured since replacing Micho Sredojevic whose abrupt resignation as Orlando Pirates’ coach plunged the club into a mini crisis.

In a space of seven days Mokwena has seen Bucs get knocked out of the MTN8 and CAF Champions League as well as dropping two points against AmaZulu in a league match.

It hasn’t been an ideal start for the young coach. Despite the rocky start, Mokwena doesn’t believe that this could hurt his chances of taking over Pirates on a permanent basis.

“Not at all. I think that it’s not about me,” Mokwena said, after Pirates’ elimination by Zambia’s Green Eagles in the Champions League preliminary round.

“Every time I come out, I carry a different responsibility. Unfortunately, when you are put into a leadership position, you can’t be selfish and you can’t think about yourself. It would be extremely unwise for me to think about myself and getting this position. The chairman always says that the moment finds the man and the man doesn’t find the moment.

“We move along with the support that we have. Like I said, we have a very good team, a team that fights and continues to fight. They are honest boys. They try their best. We’ve got a very good technical staff that gives a lot of support. We just have to keeping on working to ensure that we try and overturn the current tide because at this moment we are riding against it. We’ve just got to remain strong. I am the last person to be worried about myself at this moment.”

Pirates were playing catch-up against Eagles after losing the first leg 1-0. This meant they needed to win by two clear goals to advance to the second round. They couldn’t afford to concede, which they did moments after taking the lead through Happy Jele. Eagles eventually won 2-1 on aggregate, and for the second time in seven days Pirates slumped into the Orlando Stadium turf disappointed. A week ago it was Highlands Park who had stunned them in the MTN8.

These two competitions were going to be the club’s biggest test to see how far they have come since finishing second in the last two seasons. Pirates needed the MTN8 to appease the fans who haven’t seen their team lift a trophy since 2014. They also needed the club to do well in the Champions League as they feel that’s where they belong. Their focus is now on the league where they need to stabilise their sinking ship.

“The boys gave their all,” Mokwena said.

“You can’t ask for more. It’s clear to see that the players gave the best they could do. We were a bit unfortunate to not convert the chances that we created. This performance is encouraging. Unfortunately the results didn’t go our way. When you go through these sorts of difficulties, it’s like Murphy’s Law - anything that can go wrong goes wrong. We’re in that moment. We just have to stick together, be strong and keep going.”

Football Reporter