Home Sport More mature Mokwena returns to Orlando

More mature Mokwena returns to Orlando

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Rhulani Mokwena, Head coach of Mamelodi Sundowns reacts during the DStv Premiership 2021/22 match between Mamelodi Sundowns and AmaZulu at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria, on 20 August 2021. Picture: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Rhulani Mokwena did not play at the highest level and fell in love with coaching at a young age.

BORN in a footballing family, Rhulani Mokwena’s allegiance with one of the country’s elite clubs, Orlando Pirates, runs deep. His paternal lineage, which includes his grandfather, father and uncle, has a strong affiliation with the Soweto-based club.

The Sono trio embraced the famous black and white jersey of Pirates during their respective generations as players. Jomo Sono once left his bride, Gail, at the altar in 1979 to help the team overturn a 2-0 deficit as they won 4-2 against Highlands Park.

Unlike his elders, Mokwena did not play at the highest level and fell in love with coaching at a young age. He cut his coaching teeth at the now defunct Silver Stars before landing at Mamelodi Sundowns.

Mokwena has often described his decision to branch off from his family’s spotlight and stand up for himself as “the road less travelled”. That road had its ups and downs. The ups saw him enjoy success at Sundowns during two different stints.

But the downs were at home – the Orlando Stadium. For two-and-a-half years – two as an assistant coach to Micho Sredojevic and six months as a caretaker – Mokwena failed to steer the Sea Robbers towards success.

He took that disappointment on the chin, and returned to Chloorkop to work with Pitso Mosimane again. And when the latter resigned, Mokwena was elevated to co-coach alongside Manqoba Mngqithi late last year.

The duo, together with senior coach Steve Komphela, inspired the Brazilians to their record fourth championship and 11th overall. Egos and football philosophies were expected to clash, but the trio appeared to be managing just fine.

Yet when tempers flared and personalities clashed, Mokwena has been professional to know that the team comes first. He was quick to credit some of his players after their win over Kaizer Chiefs at home. Referring to the recent reported rift, he said: “The elephant is out of the room. It’s old news. It was a big performance from the players.”

On the back of another win over TS Galaxy as they climbed to the top of the standings, Sundowns will be eager to build on that momentum in Soweto, against Pirates who are also enjoying a purple patch.

@Mihlalibaleka

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