Mamelodi Sundowns head coach Rulani Mokwena has responded to claims he didn’t want Steve Komphela to be part of his technical team at Chloorkop.
Mokwena celebrated 50 games as sole head coach in the 0-0 draw with Petro De Luanda on Tuesday – and had his one-year anniversary in the dugout on Monday.
He’s managed to achieve an impressive 70% win ratio in those 50 games, losing just one in regulation time – the 2-1 defeat to Stellenbosch FC in Nedbank Cup quarter-final.
When Mokwena was named head coach, Komphela was “promoted to become First Team Coach”, while Manqoba Mngqithi was redeployed from co-coach to “Senior Coach”.
But ahead of the 2023/24 campaign, Komphela opted to take up the head coach role at Moroka Swallows, admitting to IOL that the new job became appealing because he felt “he was not in the plans of the head coach”.
Mokwena, though, insisted they have a good relationship and he has the utmost respect for Komphela, who gave him his first breakthrough in coaching.
“Well I didn’t get to hear the voice note of [Komphela] that. I would assume that based on the past, and I can only speak from my side in that space, I have not heard the voice note,” he told Andile Ncube on MetroFM.
“I have to say this before I answer your questions, from my side, I can only speak from my side, and it’s the perspective that I sit from, and that I have a full responsibility and I hope that it is something I have extended towards all the colleagues that I’ve worked with – Micho [Milutin Sredojevic] being one of them, coach Manqoba [Mngqithi] being another, Pitso [Mosimane] being the other, they know that working with me I’m very honest, I give you my best and the relations are important to me.
“I am where I am today because coach Steve Komphela gave me an opportunity at Platinum Stars to be an assistant coach when I was an U19 coach way back, way back in 2011 – 2009 and 2010 in fact.
“So there is a great sense of pride, there is a great sense of appreciation towards him and what he did but for sure I know that he had his own ambitions of still remaining a head coach.”
Mokwena further explained that he felt Komphela always had the thought of being a head coach himself again and understands the idea that head coaches can select their own technical teams.
“And within his own right, you see at work he’s doing at Moroka Swallows, it’s exceptional. Because in his own right he believes that he’s a head coach and that’s why maybe even when he came it was difficult for, and out of even respect for that type of understanding for the club to turn him into an assistant coach because of his background and because the position he came from deserved a lot more respect in terms of the title and that he strongly felt like that.
“Fortunately the club gave great support because of the man that he is and the respect that the club gave him.
“But I would also think that a man like Steve Komphela also understands that with the questions you put through me, that let’s go for an example to his stint as Kaizer Chiefs head coach in the beginning, you remember who his first assistant coach was?
“I know that first season, if I’m not mistaken, it was John Paintsil and then he as the head coach changed assistant coaches to Patrick Mabedi – or Mabedi came after Doctor Khumalo. But I know that for the three seasons, he had three different assistant coaches.
“If he is to say that ‘coach Rulani did not want me as his assistant’, I would assume that he of the people who has been in the position of a head coach would understand why a head would be in liberty to choose his technical team.”
However, he insisted that ultimately the decision around Sundowns’ technical team was in the hands of the club and not his own despite being the head coach.
“That’s a very private discussion I had at the club,” when asked whether he requested his own technical team as head coach.
“But I’m also a mere employee at Mamelodi Sundowns. An employee that of course has important contribution in holding important opinion in the way I think things should be done in the club, but at the end it is the club that makes the decision. And the club will always make the best decision for the club and as a coach I will always support that.”