Rhulani is going to be better than me – Mosimane
Rhulani Mokwena’s ascension to the hottest seat at Orlando Pirates, devoid of euphoric fanfare considering the circumstances, may deprive an undiscerning football follower with a picture reflective of the burgeoning coach’s capabilities.
That Mokwena’s appointment came amid a tumultuous period at Pirates following a series of undesirable occurrences - mutilation at the hands of SuperSport United, Milutin Sredojevic’s resignation and the Buccaneers crashing out of the MTN8 raises more questions than answers. Of the many questions, the most pertinent is does Mokwena have what it takes to make the grade at Pirates?
Men who have mentored Mokwena and saw his rise from the doldrums of youth football to the elite level have spoken highly about the 35-year-old’s talents. Steve Komphela, who appointed Mokwena as his assistant during their days at Platinum Stars a decade ago, referred to Mokwena as “a beast.” It remains to be seen if Mokwena can tune on his predatory instincts and get the Soweto giants grinding.
Mokwena’s other mentor Pitso Mosimane elevated him to work with him at the Brazilians, where they won a number of trophies including the CAF Champions League. Mokwena’s stature would grow with massive experience accumulated. Speaking on his protégé’s potential, Mosimane predicted that Mokwena will go all the way to the top surpassing him. At the weekend where Mokwena was catapulted to the top seat at Pirates, Mosimane reiterated.
“He has been looking for that and he got the opportunity to do it. I told you guys when he was still next to me that he is going to be better than me in future. You know how football is you still have to travel the road,”
said Mosimane, who also expressed sadness at the departure of the man fondly known as Micho.
“Micho, very good competition. You know when you have someone that you fight with him all the time and it’s like what happened to the fight. The guy has been pushing me for the last two years. Orlando Pirates will always be Orlando Pirates, a big club. They have got quality. They have got the players, they have got the game. They have got the speed. They will always be there.”
Mokwena didn’t have a dream start to his tenure as head coach after Pirates lost 1-0 to Highlands Park in the MTN8 quarterfinals. Mosimane says Mokwena shouldn’t be perturbed by the loss.
“Rhulani must never worry. I have lost three games in a row. I know how it feels to lose three games in a row. Everybody starts to talk. Everybody finds mistakes and you know they talk. It’s football. I will talk to him if I have to. I don’t want to interfere a lot,”
“I just hope that there must never be a situation where people say we told you, he can’t do it as a head coach. You know how life is. I hope he is going to be given a chance to do it like (Lehlohonolo) Seema, he has been given a chance. Why not? Everybody has been given a chance.”
Though Mokwena’s credentials as a coach are undoubted, football is a game of results. The man, whose roots at Pirates go deeper, will be judged on results and success. Mokwena’s father KK Sono, his celebrated uncle Jomo Sono and grandfather Eric Scara Sono once donned the famous black and white in their halcyon days. Their names are etched in the annals of the club for their impressive exploits. With enormous pressure, Mokwena has a big challenge to win the hearts of Pirates supporters and to deliver the goods. His ability to handle pressure and perceptions from within and outside could be a deciding factor in his future.
“When you are in that seat, you must have a thick skin. Rhulani has been looking for an opportunity and now he must just fly,”
With massive support from his family, mentors, technical team, administrators, supporters, and some general members of the public, the stage is set for Mokwena to do wonders. His wealth of experience, gained through books, classes, apprenticeship, workshops and excursions abroad, has to culminate in what will take the Buccaneers to cloud nine.
For all his brilliance and intellect, Mokwena’s longevity at Pirates’s hot seat will be determined by how well his men do on the pitch. Since patience is not a strong character for many a football supporter in South Africa, luck or divine intervention will be needed to swing things in the favour of Mokwena. Now is time for the genius and the beast Mosimane and Komphela wax lyrical about to live up to their forecasts.