Give Rulani Mokwena more time‚ says Owen da Gama to Pirates management

Orlando Pirates interim coach Rulani Mokwena, pictured here alone on the bench at Makhulong Stadium, was a relieved man after the final whistle in Tembisa.
Orlando Pirates interim coach Rulani Mokwena, pictured here alone on the bench at Makhulong Stadium, was a relieved man after the final whistle in Tembisa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Former Orlando Pirates coach Owen da Gama has urged his erstwhile employers to give incumbent Rulani Mokwena more time “to get things right.”

Pirates beat Da Gama's side Highlands Park 1-0 in a league match at Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa on Tuesday night and while the result was disappointing for the home team‚ he still had time to offer a glowing reference to Mokwena.

“I think Rulani is a brilliant coach‚” said Da Gama.

The 32-year-old Mokwena‚ who went into the match under extreme pressure from the fans following a string of poor results‚ was given the job on a caretaker basis following the abrupt resignation of Serbian coach Milutin Sredojević in August.

“Sometimes when a coach takes over and he becomes the head coach‚ he has to be given time to implement his style of playing.

"He has to be given time.”

Da Gama has first-hand experience of the kind of pressure that accompanies the Pirates coaching job after commanding the Bucs dugout between September 2007 and June 2008.

The former Bloemfontein Celtic and Free State Stars coach said Mokwena deserves the same opportunities that were afforded to Ernst Middendorp at Kaizer Chiefs.

Amid unimaginable pressure from the fans to fire Middendorp at the end of last season‚ the German coach got the backing of chairman Kaizer Motaung even after the ignominy of failing to finish inside the top eight in the previous campaign.

“I mean they gave Ernst Middendorp time and now he is top of the log.

"Last year Chiefs were not doing well let’s be honest‚ but they gave the coach a chance. So why not give Rulani time?” asked Da Gama.

“I think he is a brilliant coach and if given time he can definitely take this team to a very high level‚” said Da Gama.

Since replacing Sredojević at the start of the season‚ Mokwena’s tenure at the helm resembles a badly mixed bag of vegetables.

The win over Highlands was only their third in the league this season after nine matches and propelled Mokwena’s charges to eighth on the log with 12 points‚ 10 behind arch rivals Chiefs.

Asked what does Mokwena needs to do to steer the sinking Bucs ship back to safe waters‚ Da Gama had a simple answer: “Exactly what Middendorp needed.

"Middendorp was given an opportunity even after he did not finish in the top eight.

“So for me the only thing is that Rulani should be given an opportunity. It’s not my business and it’s not criticism.

"It’s just my observation.”

Pirates will lock horns with Chiefs in the quarterfinal of the Telkom Knockout at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday at 3pm.


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