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HomeDStv PremiershipMokwena Responds To Suggestions Lorch Is Played Due To Friendship

Mokwena Responds To Suggestions Lorch Is Played Due To Friendship

Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Rulani Mokwena says brushed off suggestions that Thembinkosi Lorch’s regular minutes at the club are due to their friendship.

Lorch, 30, was a marquee January deadline day signing for Sundowns expected to take the club to the next level and potentially be a long-term replacement for Themba Zwane.

The former Orlando Pirates star, has, however, divided opinion after his first 15 games, with sections of supporters and pundits suggesting he’s underperformed and hasn’t merited his game time in the star-studded Masandawana squad.

“Let me start by saying they are right, Lorch is my friend, they are all my friends, when they are playing, most of them… I am their best friend, all of them,” Mokwena said.

“When some of them are on the bench and not in the starting line-up, I’m just their friend but they are all my friends and they know that they know that in me they have a friend and brother for life.

“Jurgen Klopp said something so profound the other day, he said there are coaches who win trophies but he wants to win relationships, it’s funny how the universe works and then two weeks later he has a public spat with Mohamed Salah.

“And then, of course, you can talk about a breakdown in a relationship, no relationship is perfect, you have seen it all the time, but I have said to the players, I don’t only want to win games like other coaches, like Klopp said… I want to win matches, and trophies but also relationships.

“So people are right when they say the players are my friends like Mothobi is my friend, Grant Kekana is my friend, you should see the discussions I have with these players, sometimes nothing to do with football… and as I say it’s something you build.

“[This] is by being honest with each other, I’m honest with them, they with me, Lorch the other day scored two goals and said on TV, the coach has been very hard on me for not shooting inside the box… I don’t move away from my responsibility to serve this club.

“Before friendship and relationships is the success of Mamelodi Sundowns and that’s a reason I’m employed here, and as much as it’s true – that yes of course I have fantastic relationships with my players, the paramount focus here in performances and helping the team to win.

“That is for everybody, including myself, when I get things wrong, they are the first ones to come to say, what you said, that tactic, what you said to me… I learn, I improve, the good thing is we do it behind closed doors, in our room, we’re honest with each other and we talk openly. So people are right [Lorch is my friend].”

Thembinkosi Lorch of Mamelodi Sundowns celebrates goal with Rhulani Mokwena, Head coach of Mamelodi Sundowns during the 2024 Nedbank Cup match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Maritzburg United at the Lucas Moripe Stadium, Atteridgeville on the 17 March 2024 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Four goals, one assist, playing in his advanced playmaker role and at times, as a false nine has invited criticism on his impact, but Mokwena feels he’s being judged unfairly as a new signing who arrived within a congested fixture schedule.

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Sundowns have played 18 games in three months, since the return of football after the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations break but Mokwena says there’s no doubts about his signing of Lorch.

“Do I judge myself? No. Do I doubt myself? No. I have no point in sitting and saying this thing is right or wrong, we haven’t even given [the Lorch signing] time. How can we say after a couple of months? It’s impossible,” Mokwena said over the success of Lorch.

“Which player just comes in and boom! All of a sudden, every player has an adaptation period, every single player, some take faster, some take longer and he also needs his adaptation period, and the support, like Tashreeq Matthews, the first question [about him] where are you going to play Tashreeq?

“I said I don’t know, I’ve played him in different positions and he’s scored, but nobody comes back and says ah when you said you didn’t know… nobody comes back [to say anything].”

Mokwena was then challenged stating Lorch is an experienced senior player and former PSL Footballer of the Season winner, who cannot be judged the same as others in adaptation.

“Sometimes what you see on the eye, is not what is happening, let me give you homework, go to our last five games, and tell me who has the most amount of chances inside the box…”

Man of the match Thembinkosi Lorch of Mamelodi Sundowns during the 2024 Nedbank Cup match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Maritzburg United at the Lucas Moripe Stadium, Atteridgeville on the 17 March 2024 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Lorenz Kohler
Lorenz Kohler
Lorenz Köhler is an award-winning South African football journalist. Having cut his teeth in the industry working at Kick-Off Magazine, he is now iDiski Times' senior digital content writer. He specialises in breaking top African football stories and transfers with a major focus on the 'big-three' Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates and CAF inter-club and international competitions. In 2021 he was listed amongst the top-five journalists under 30 in Print Media for the AIPS Awards.