Pirates coach Rulani Mokwena: ‘The players know I fear nothing’

01 November 2019 - 17:00 By Marc Strydom
Happy Jele, Rhulani Mokwena, coach of Orlando Pirates and Wayne Sandilands of Orlando Pirates during the 2019 Telkom Knockout Quarter Final Orlando Pirates Press Conference at the PSL Offices, Johannesburg on the 31 October 2019.
Happy Jele, Rhulani Mokwena, coach of Orlando Pirates and Wayne Sandilands of Orlando Pirates during the 2019 Telkom Knockout Quarter Final Orlando Pirates Press Conference at the PSL Offices, Johannesburg on the 31 October 2019.
Image: ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Rulani Mokwena has explained his apparent toned-down press conferences since becoming caretaker-coach of Orlando Pirates as due to the difficult situation the struggling club currently faces.

Mokwena was speaking ahead of his first Soweto derby as head coach‚ Saturday's Telkom Knockout quarterfinal against Kaizer Chiefs at Moses Mabhida Stadium‚ which was sold out in a day.

He said the context of the Buccaneers reeling since the bombshell departure of head coach Milutin Sredojevic had to be taken into account as part of the explanation for his more measured approach in making statements to the media.

Ahead of a Soweto derby in October 2018 Mokwena‚ taking a rare press conference as assistant to Sredojevic‚ dropped bombshells‚ questioning the credentials of Giovanni Solinas as then-coach of Chiefs‚ and the commitment of Amakhosi striker Leonardo Castro.

As a head coach Mokwena has been notably diplomatic‚ and this week openly praised current Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp for the job he has done taking Amakhosi to top of the Absa Premiership.

Mokwena was asked if it was a fear of on-form Chiefs that has made him more subdued.

“You go through different stages in life‚ and if you don’t read and you don’t update yourself you will always remain behind‚” the 32-year-old coaching prodigy said.

“I was listening to [former NBA basketball coach] Phil Jackson the other day. He said‚ ‘You don’t become the coach that you want‚ you actually have to become the coach that the team needs’.

“Now‚ in this particular moment Orlando Pirates doesn’t need a vocal Rulani Mokwena.

“I think when you see what we are going through‚ the only talking that will do justice is the talking that’s done on the pitch.

“So‚ it’s not fear‚ it’s growth. It’s a metamorphosis. It’s going through different stages and being able to say‚ like an eagle‚ I’m prepared to pluck my own claws‚ break my own beak‚ and take out my own feathers.

“Because if I want to see 70‚ I must make sure that I revive myself. Like an eagle that goes through that stage‚ when he gets to 40 the eagle says‚ ‘Do I want to prolong my stay‚ or do I want to die?’

“As a coach you adapt to the environment‚ to the conditions‚ to that specific phase that you are facing.

“The players know I fear nothing. It would be a wrong interpretation to say I’m afraid.

“I’m also extremely spiritually grounded. So‚ ‘Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death‚ I fear no evil’.”

Pirates have been floundering since Sredojevic’s shock departure just three matches into 2019-20‚ joining Egyptian giants Zamalek that same weekend.

Bucs are in eighth place in the PSL from three wins‚ three draws and three defeats. They notched a timely 1-0 league win against Highlands Park in Tembisa on Tuesday night ahead of Saturday’s huge cup derby‚ though only via a glaring offside goal scored by Tshegofatso Mabasa.

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