Pirates coach Rulani Mokwena defends his defenders
Orlando Pirates coach Rulani Mokwena has defended his defensive players and said they have shown massive improvement since the league resumed after the Fifa international break in October.
Pirates face bitter rivals Kaizer Chiefs in the Soweto derby at FNB Stadium on Saturday and while captain Happy Jele and right-back Mthokozisi Dube will miss the game after both players received red cards in the two matches played ahead of the sold-out encounter‚ Mokwena is unfazed.
“The recent numbers don’t reflect the description (of being shaky)‚” he said.
“If we were shaky we won’t be speaking of the clean sheets against Maritzburg‚ Highlands Park and also against Stellenbosch (in the TKO).
“We knew that going into the Fifa break we were conceding a lot of goals after the result (3-3) against Cape Town City.
“But after that we have stabilized things and found a little bit more balance‚ a little bit more organization.
“So I wouldn’t agree to describe our defence as shaky. Playing the way we’re playing‚ it’s not about the last line‚ goalkeepers and the defenders.
“When we play we defend as a team and as a unit‚ and we also take responsibilities when we have the turnover and that’s when our defence starts to play when we have the possession of the ball. That is the reality of the situation.”
Against a Chiefs side that has won all their last five matches and are in the semifinals of the TKO after beating the Bucs last week‚ Mokwena’s misfiring team will have their hands full trying to defend an 11-match unbeaten run against their arch-rivals.
Pirates will also be missing 19-year-old right Thabiso Monyane‚ who is representing SA in the eight-nation Under 23 Africa Cup of Nations team in Egypt‚ but Mokwena insisted that he has enough players to cover for the missing players‚
“(Abel) Mabaso came in and helped us in the last match and did exceptionally well‚" he said.
"We will miss the captain (Jele). He’s the integral part; he plays the important part in the team.
“But we have 33 other important players and some will get the responsibility to replace Happy (Jele) at centre-back.
“Someone will get the opportunity because that’s how football works sometimes. In the absence of somebody the opportunity arises for somebody else.
“In a squad like ours‚ which is rich in depth‚ the players will make sure that they take the opportunity.”
Mokwena has options and the experienced Justice Chabalala and Alfred Ndengane could partner Ntsikelelo Nyauza‚ the player who has been playing alongside Jele in recent matches.