Orlando Pirates' Thabo Matlaba credits Rulani Mokwena for improvement in his game
Posted: 7 November 2017 Time: 14:30
Orlando Pirates captain Thabo Matlaba has paid tribute to assistant coach Rulani Mokwena for helping him transition from a fullback to a central midfielder.
Matlaba has had a functional change since the arrival of Micho Sredojevic at the start of the season, having featured predominantly in central midfield rather than his customary left-back position.
The role seems to have brought new vigour to the 29-year-old as he adds more pace to Bucs' transition, consistently achieving a pass success rate of over 80 percent per match this season, and often still getting in front of goal to shoot.
Matlaba has lauded Mokwena for the contribution to his game, and says the former Mamelodi Sundowns assistant has put a lot of effort into analysing and advising him on his strengths and weaknesses.
"Yes, we do sit with Rulani and analyse ourselves. As players, when someone comes with the strategy to sit you down and show you your strengths and weaknesses, it's nice," says Matlaba.
"It really motivates us and, as a player, it helps you to grow. To be honest, I feel I've been improving as an individual since he's come in.
"I've played in the midfield before, under [Augusto] Palacios, but I didn't play well and he didn't give me such good tips.
"When Rulani came in, he said, 'Coach Micho wants you to play in midfield and I'll help you to play there'. And he has helped me and it's been easy for me."
Previously, the former Free State Stars defender has been criticised and mocked by opposing coaches for his constant roaming all over the park, but he says he knows what is expected from him on the field.
"I'm not worried about [people saying I'm all over the pitch] because I know what [tactics] we're playing inside the field," he defends.
"Even if sometimes I'm up and down, I know that's the plan. Whoever doesn't understand football won't understand but, personally, I understand why I'm there."