Rhulani Mokwena, now assistant coach of Orlando Pirates, was able to watch the Soweto Derby from the sidelines as a child thanks to his family connections to the club. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - Being the son of Julius “KK” Sono, the nephew of Jomo Sono and Eric “Scara” Sono’s grandson, Rhulani Mokwena grew up in football privilege. Hence the Soweto Derby will always have a backstory to it for the Buccaneers assistant coach.

It’s well documented now that Mokwena, who served in a similar role at defending Absa Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns for three years, chose the difficult path to his coaching career when he could have been riding on his family name to kick doors wide open to make for an easier journey.

This week Mokwena was given the rare face time with journalists and naturally questions around how he grew up watching the derby came up. “If you remember, the Orlando Stadium had an athletics track that was made out of gravel and sand and we knew that as the VIP area,” Mokwena recalls.

“As a young kid, with a little bit of fortune and special privileges, I was always one of those sitting right next to the touchline and being part of the spectacle. It was always a standstill event, the whole township would come to a standstill. And everybody would be up in arms in Orlando during those times.”

Mokwena finally got to play a part in dictating the outcome of the Soweto Derby when he joined Pirates as the second-in-command to head coach Micho Sredojevic and will do so again this weekend. Unlike his father, uncle and grandfather, he’s chosen to be in the dugout rather than on the pitch.

“The talk was always about everybody getting free beers. I didn’t know what that was for and what the significance was given my age. But everybody would then head off to the shebeen and you would have fun if Pirates won, but you would also have a lot of problems trying to get home had Pirates not won,” said Mokwena.

He’s already rubbed up Chiefs fans, maybe even management and the coaching staff, the wrong way during his time in the spotlight this week with several of his statements. The Buccaneers chose not to sign current Amakhosi talisman Khama Billiat, Chiefs are poorer tactically without his former mentor Steve Komphela, who was replaced by Italian Giovanni Solinas, and it’s unlikely that striker Leonardo Castro will recover in time from an injury to feature in the derby on Saturday.

These were bold statements made by Mokwena during a press conference - and the Soweto derby hype couldn’t have asked for a better connoisseur.

The Star

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