Mlambo has earned plaudits from his mentor for his overall work ethic and mentality since his signing from Bidvest Wits in January.
The 27-year-old has risen to prominence – more so recently with The Buccaneers – since his arrival in the Absa Premiership with Chippa United at the start of 2016, and impressed further by helping The Clever Boys to the MTN8 and league titles two seasons ago.
Since joining Pirates seven months ago, Mlambo has featured in all except one competitive game, and has impressed supporters with his attacking vision and array of passes on the pitch, with Mokwena labelling him “the best midfielder in the country” at present.
“Xola Mlambo, who I think should be in Bafana Bafana, for me at this moment in time is the best midfielder in the country,” Mokwena tells KickOff.com.
“He possesses so many qualities that a lot of other midfielders don’t have, in terms of his pressure resistance, his ability to play in multiple positions from an offensive phase and his overall reading of the game, and I think that sets him apart.
“I think for him now the challenge in particular is to be a bit more consistent and work towards that Bafana call-up, because I think it’s on the way.
“I think he’s very close to representing Bafana and, like I’ve said, he is for me the best central midfielder in South Africa at the moment.”
The budding tactician also says Mlambo is a lot like France-based midfielder Bongani Zungu, with whom he worked with at Mamelodi Sundowns.
“He reminds me of the time I used to work with Bongani Zungu – his dedication and commitment to the game, as well as his work ethic,” Mokwena says.
“A lot of people don’t know that at Pirates there are times when the players leave at 7pm. They arrive at 8am and the likes of Xola would stay behind and do extra training and match analysis.
“There was a day Xola and [Vincent] Pule stayed behind and had three sessions – one team session, another individual and technical session after lunch and then we stayed for about three hours analysing their games and doing corrections.
“So, there’s a lot of hard work that gets put in behind the scenes, and it’s the results you see when they play on the pitch – they fight and are committed to the cause. That’s a result of all that hard work that a lot of people don’t see.”