It was a rollercoaster of a weekend for Orlando Pirates and Rulani Mokwena that resulted in the highly-rated young coach finally stepping into the frontline.
Mokwena is touted as one of the best young footballing minds in South Africa, and having worked underneath the likes of Pitso Mosimane and Milutin Sredojevic at Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, he’s got plenty of experience at big institutions.
Now, following the shock resignation of ‘Micho’ on Friday evening, Mokwena was thrust into the spotlight at Orlando Stadium on Saturday as he took charge of a game as head coach for the first time when Pirates went up against Highlands Park in the MTN8.
The 34-year-old is no stranger to the limelight having been praised highly by Mosimane and Sredojevic for his work as an assistant, and he is known to have been approached by several Absa Premiership clubs about going into head coaching in the last couple of years. Mokwena opted against a move though in favour of remaining with the Buccaneers for the long-term project that was being built at the club, and the exit of the Serbian – something that he says has ‘affected’ him – has seen him take on that role with the Soweto giants.
Pirates went on to lose their first game under Mokwena 1-0 after Wayde Jooste’s single strike saw them knocked out of the MTN8, but they have a shot at redemption tomorrow evening when they take on AmaZulu in a return to Absa Premiership action. After facing Usuthu there will be another massive game for the interim head coach to focus on, with Pirates needing a win at home against Green Eagles of Zambia in order to progress in the CAF Champions League.