Spitting fire: how Rulani Mokwena took heated derby into the press room

11 November 2019 - 14:35 By SAZI HADEBE
Orlando Pirates coach Rulani Mokwena ranted furiously during his post-match TV interview after his team's 3-2 Absa Premiership defeat against Kaizer Chiefs in Saturday's Soweto derby at FNB Stadium.
Orlando Pirates coach Rulani Mokwena ranted furiously during his post-match TV interview after his team's 3-2 Absa Premiership defeat against Kaizer Chiefs in Saturday's Soweto derby at FNB Stadium.
Image: Frennie Shivambu/Gallo Images

The thrill-a-minute Soweto Derby did not end on the pitch as both coaches – Orlando Pirates’ Rulani Mokwena and Kaizer Chiefs’ Ernst Middendorp – gave an entertaining sparring match in the post-match press conference, where tempers remained heated.

Mokwena might have lost the gallant fight 3-2 on the field as his side were unlucky losers after recovering from a 2-0 deficit to level matters before Bernard Parker won a penalty for Chiefs in the dying minutes of the game, which was slotted by Daniel Cardoso.

But the Pirates coach certainly came out trumps when it was time to reflect on what was one of the most breathtaking Absa Premiership derbies in a long time between these two Soweto giants.

From the start Mokwena sought to correct Chiefs spokesman Vina Maphosa, who made an honest mistake by not referring to him as “coach Rulani” when he was introducing the coaches to the media to give their reactions to what unfolded at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.

Mokwena was also critical of the Chiefs players' conduct against his team on the field, calling some of their tackles, and a scuffle near the end of the game, “thuggish behaviour”.

“Mr Maphosa, thanks for saying ‘coach Rulani’. Initially you just introduced me as Rulani,” Mokwena said, firing the first salvo, adding, “but the opposition coach was called ‘coach Middendorp’.

“I’m also qualified as ‘coach Rulani’, but thank you for correcting that.”

For Maphosa there was no other way but to apologise to the fuming Bucs coach.

That was put out of the way, but there was more drama to come as Mokwena went on a relentless rant about the perceived manner in which Chiefs claimed their first league victory over Bucs in five years.

“Good advert for football. If you minus all the drama and some of thuggish behaviour, I think this was a good advert for football,” said the Bucs coach.

“It was not a good start for us. Unfortunately we made a mistake that led to an own goal and they took the lead.

“We had a couple of chances, hit the posts [three times], but Chiefs were causing a lot of problems with diagonal balls.

“Once we dealt with that we could pick up second ball and we created a lot of chances, and fortunately we got the one just before half time.

“But it could have been 2-2. Vincent Pule had a chance one-on-one with the keeper but again it’s our story – hit the crossbar, hit the upright.

“Then you go 2-1 into half time and you change a little of the structure. Ja, it could have been 2-2.”

Mokwena then questioned why Middendorp didn’t agree with the referee Thando Ndzandzeka on sending defender Erick Mathoho off with a red in the dying minutes of the game as the players’ tempers flared.

“I hear coach Middendorp saying he doesn’t know what happened with a red card. I watched it again and it wasn’t just Mathoho who should have been sent off,” said Mokwena.

Mathoho got his marching orders after pushing Pirates defender Abel Mabaso to the ground following a fight that ensued between Pirates striker Gabadinho Mhango and Chiefs midfielder Lebogang Manyama, who both got away without reprimand.

“This is real thuggish behavior that doesn’t belong on the pitch. It’s very bad for football,” charged a clearly agitated Mokwena.

“It starts with [Willard] Katsande’s tackle on Fortune Makaringe in the first half. An vver the top, career-threatening tackle and thuggish as well.

“Those are some of the situations I’m talking about. Those things don’t belong in SA football. It should not be condoned and we should not accept such things.”

When Mokwena decried the fact that he has players with an assortment of injuries after the tension-filled derby, Middendorp looked stunned, his body language displaying clear disagreement with his counterpart's accusations.

“I have a player bleeding now with a broken nose because he was punched in the face,” Mokwena said.

“Kaizer Chiefs is good enough to beat us on tactics, on personnel. Well-coached team. Excellent. But not on diving, diving inside the area with Parker – an excellent dive. Not on thuggish tackles, not on boxing. We don’t train boxing.”

This was a second defeat against Chiefs in seven days after Bucs were also knocked out on penalties in the Telkom Knockout quarterfinals in Durban last weekend.