Johannesburg — RHULANI Mokwena is still in the infancy of his coaching career, prompting him to remain humble and learn from the very best, including Ernst Middendorp.
In 2020, Mokwena was appointed as Mamelodi Sundowns’ co-coach with Manqoba Mngqithi as the duo claimed two league titles.
Late last year, though, the young tactician became the sole man on the throne, appointed as the Brazilians head coach after a run of lacklustre performances.
“I try to keep a very low profile. I don’t think I have the right to speak to a lot of PSL coaches yet. I’ve got to humble myself and earn my stripes,” he said.
“I don’t communicate with a lot of coaches. I try to keep to a space where I understand the ecosystem, which is an advice I got from a wise man,” he said.
“But if there’s a coach that I frequently talk to it’s Ernst Middendorp. I spoke frequently to him during the World Cup about his observations and learnings.
“He’s so willing to give me information. I knew about his book even before it was released and some of the snippets, and tactical insights (on the game).”
And having coached in the PSL for some time, following his debut in 2005, Middendorp is “a very good coach", one that Mokwena “learns a lot from”.
The duo might share a solid bromance and teacher-student relationship off the pitch but they fight for the respective badges of their clubs on the pitch.
During his stint at Orlando Pirates, Mokwena accused the then-Kaizer Chiefs coach of promoting “thuggish behaviour” after some heated exchanges in the Soweto Derby.
Middendorp, though, has since changed coaching seats as he’s now calling Swallows his home, having taken charge of his first game against Richards Bay.
The German-born coach lost that game, needing him to turn the tide when they visit the champions, Sundowns, at Loftus Versfeld on Tuesday.
Sundowns might be fresh from beating Pirates to extend their lead at the top of the log to five points, but Mokwena expects a tight contest against Swallows.
“He wants to beat us, and we have to recover well. It’s going to be a difficult game against Swallows, because of the leadership of Middendorp,” he said.
Swallows spent the latter part of last season being steered by Musa Nyatama, who became a player-coach after the sacking of Dylan Kerr.
“I don’t want to take away the incredible job that was done by Musa in the interim. I think you guys know the feelings I have towards Musa,” Mokwena said.
“While he was in charge of the team, we were speaking and exchanging ideas. I learnt a lot from him. Musa is an incredible prospect as a coach.
“Musa did very well to lay a good foundation for Middendorp. But I think Ernst, with his experience, will assist Swallows with moving forward,” he added.
The Birds are 14th on the table with 13 points, two clear of the bottom-placed side Maritzburg United.