Master Hunt can give Orlando Pirates' student Mokwena a tough exam
Bidvest Wits‚ at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday‚ are sure to give Rulani Mokwena a stern challenge in his assessment that tactically Orlando Pirates are beginning to adjust to the philosophy and thinking of the interim Bucs coach.
Wits moved the Absa Premiership match to Durban for upgrades to the standard of their ageing 4‚000-capacity home ground at Bidvest Stadium.
The cash-strapped 2016-17 PSL champions‚ though‚ seem sure to also appreciate the extra income that can be generated from the bigger‚ 52‚000-seat World Cup semifinal venue‚ with Durban crowds for such games usually quite good.
The hollowing-out financially of Wits appears quite drastic. Back-room staff have been retrenched and CEO Jose Ferreira has stepped down.
The club backed by financial giants Bidvest apparently cannot even afford to update their website‚ where the last news piece was posted on May 15‚ on head of academy Glen Salmon – since among staff members made redundant – discussing the 2018-19 reserve league season.
Despite these ructions‚ coach Gavin Hunt has managed a solid start to the season‚ and Wits‚ from three wins and a defeat‚ occupy the same third place they managed as a finish last campaign.
If 32-year-old wunderkind Mokwena is the rookie thrust into the spotlight by the abrupt departure early this season of Bucs' head coach Milutin Sredojevic‚ four-time league-winner Hunt is a master who is sure to have some tricks up his sleeve to show the young coach.
Mokwena crucially got his first win at Pirates against Chippa United‚ 2-1 at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
After a nervy start in the hotseat‚ where Mokwena seemed jumpy in his gameplan‚ he felt he got his tactics right against the Chili Boys.
“The first half we played with control – no threat of the transition and the counterattack [from Chippa]‚” Mokwena said.
“We knew Chippa would play for Lerato Manzini‚ would take the balls to him‚ and then Kurt Lentjies and [Thabo] ‘Jomo’ Rakhale need to come closer. And then they establish the play.
“Ntsikelelo Nyauza was fantastic on that in terms of rest defence on Lerato. He had a very‚ very good first half – on top of his game.
“Unfortunately then he had to be substituted and then we had to change the structure a bit.
“And not just the structure‚ but it took a bit of a gamble to put the young boy‚ Thabiso Monyane‚ in to give us a bit more width‚ and also a bit of speed to get behind Chippa – and the boy did very well.
“But it was solid [in the first half]. Controlled – no threats.
“In the second half‚ once we went 2-0 up‚ that’s the price you pay. You have Zakhele Lephasa on the pitch‚ Thabiso on the pitch‚ a lot of youngsters on the pitch – you’re going to pay school fees.
“Because they play the moment and not the game. But they’ll learn‚ we’ll teach them‚ we’ll show them the corrections‚ and they’ll get better.”
Pirates are in mid-table‚ in seventh place‚ in the PSL from two wins‚ two draws and a defeat.