Pitso has high praise for Rhulani Mokwena
JOHANNESBURG - “Never mind the coach, he (Mokwena) is an intelligent person. A good coach of respect and integrity. He has got his information and has got his knowledge.”
Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane shared those sentiments upon the return of assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena to the club in July, after he spent two and a half seasons at Orlando Pirates.
The former Pirates interim coach had appeared to be the missing part of the puzzle in the technical team after being one of the conductors during Sundowns’ completion of a double - winning the Absa Premiership title and Nedbank Cup - in the last three weeks.
Heading into the bio-bubble, the Brazilians were a little behind and their fate was not in their hands. They trailed Premiership leaders Kaizer Chiefs, who had a superior goal difference, by four points.
But at the end, Sundowns made smashing and grabbing the league title from Chiefs on the final day of the season look all too easy after winning their last five matches on the trot, while Chiefs were stuttering.
Mosimane and Sundowns completed the domestic treble, having also won the Telkom Knockout in December. But the 56-year-old coach has looked to his subordinates in the technical team and gave thanks for assisting him over the finish.
Assistant and goalkeeper coach Manqoba Mngqithi and Wendell Robinson have stuck beside “Jingles” through thick and thick in his reign. But perhaps some props should go to “prodigal son” Mokwena for bringing wealth of knowledge to the team after a three-year absence.
Mokwena’s first two years at Pirates were all about extended learning from an experienced campaigner such as Micho Sredojevic whose success around the continent is well scripted. But Mokwena already showed glimpses of being a master instead of the student.
Sredojevic allowed Mokwena to run the lectures to the players on the sidelines and publicly stood to be corrected when at fault. Such that when that cohesiveness aired, many believed that Mokwena was the actual head coach, while Sredojevic was a front.
But as an audition for the role of running an institution that meant a lot - his grandfather, father and uncle called Pirates home - Mokwena was temporarily handed the reins when Sredojevic left early last season. But he drowned.
Eventually, Mokwena was loaned out to Chippa United early this year as head coach before the season was halted by Covid-19. But as he returned to Sundowns, following the end of his contract at Pirates, from the extended season, a matured Mokwena prevailed.
Together with the “classified book he left with” and the three-year experience he gained there, Sundowns had fresh ideas of how to be champions of the land again. It was even seamless for Mokwena to run instructions on the sidelines, because the relationship he built with the seniors had reached brotherly status.
But another acumen that Mokwena possesses is being able to work with youngsters. Percy Tau, who’s currently South Africa’s biggest export, had an unwavering relationship with Mokwena when he rose to stardom.
And that’s why you can bet on Mokwena to have played a profound role in helping youngsters Keletso Makgalwa, Promise Mkhuma and Siphelele Mkhulise, to come off the blocks for the team during the double victory in the bubble.
As most people who are associated with Sundowns are happy with the return of Mokwena, so is Mosimane who said his assistant “is an angel, he has got a lot of luck”, adding “I said to him please don’t miss many trophies again, stay where the trophies are”.