Mokwena: Players need a lot of credit
Posted: 4 September 2018 Time: 09:00
Orlando Pirates assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena has reserved praise for the team's mental resolve during what has been a difficult start to the season.
Pirates came into the new season carrying hefty expectations from their supporters, following their promising end to last term as they finished in second place - five points adrift of champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
After a concealed pre-season in Nelspruit, Zambia and Cape Town, from which the Buccaneers faithful had heard only good things, the team were expected to immediately pick up from where they left off in May.
However, things have not quite gone according to plan for coach Milutin Sredojevic's side, who have managed just two victories while suffering two disappointing defeats from their opening five matches.
Their start has also been marred by two own goals and two red cards - the latest coming in rather dramatic fashion as Thamsanqa Gabuza stormed off the pitch during their last fixture against Black Leopards.
Mokwena has since commented on the status of the Bucs' dressing room, lauding the mental fortitude shown throughout their troubled start to the campaign.
"Firstly, I want to just praise the players and their ability to overcome adversity. We've been extremely impressed with how the players have conducted themselves," Mokwena tells KickOff.com.
"Even in difficult times, you know, it's not easy to concede an early own-goal against Highlands Park and get the strength to push on and save a point.
"Then to go to Chippa and play the majority of the match with 10 men [after Mthokozise Dube was sent off], and then again losing Gabuza against a very stubborn and committed Black Leopards but still be able to win the match.
"I think the players need to get a lot of credit for their mental strength and ability to just overcome the adversity."
The former Sundowns assistant coach also reserved praise for a number of individuals who have shown good character by way of performance and leadership.
"Some of the players who have been key for that have been, obviously, Vincent Pule – he's been incredibly important for us with regards to his performances," he adds.
"Thabo Matlaba has come in and shown leadership and experience. Happy Jele is showing why he's lasted for 12 seasons at Pirates and he is carrying the Chairman's Award onto the pitch – showing a lot of leadership, desire and dedication."