Mkhonza currently forms an integral part as a coach and scout of the Shield Sbonis’ iDiski campaign that recently saw Durban-born youngster Ryan Adams sign for Orlando Pirates on a one-year deal.
The 38-year-old retired defender, who is now a full-time analyst with national broadcasters SABC, has been around the country since the inception of the talent scouting campaign last year, in order to find a player worthy of training with English Premier League giants Chelsea.
Three boys were selected this year, including Adams, Thulo Thibatsi and Joshua Roman, out of a total of over 600 entrants from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Bloemfontein and Pretoria.
However, on this journey Mkhonza has discovered many worthy talented youngsters out there that are being lost to sufficient development, due to professional clubs not having enough patience to groom them.
“There’s so much talent out there, my only worry is that teams don’t have the patience to package the talent,” said Mkhonza.
“I know coaches at grassroots level are doing a lot of spade work to package the talent, but there’s more [to learn] in terms of the modern trends.
“Remember, now the game is moving faster and as coaches we need to understand those trends for us to maximise the training we give to these boys.
“It’s also important to create an understanding that, if coaches want to give a certain type of drill the players have to acclimatise quickly.
“These boys went to Chelsea and they were able to adapt because of what we instilled here [in camp], and they were able to do it that side.”
Having worked extensively with aspiring footballers in this campaign over the last two years, ‘Dr Mnandi’ – as Mkhonza is affectionately known – says another stumbling block amongst many trialists and many South Africans is their skewed perception that their ability is the only thing that matters.
“It’s difficult because some of them think it’s only about ability – ‘If I have ability, I don’t need to worry about other things,’’ he explained.
“But in this campaign, we gave them life skills and had meetings with them to make sure they understand football is not just about ability, but many mental aspects too.
“In our culture as South Africans, players are not mentally tough. We’ve seen them go overseas and they come back because they feel the culture there is too tough.
“And we’re trying to teach kids that from this level, this is where you need to know these things so that when you reach the highest level you are able to adapt easily.”