The Star Early Edition

Molekwa and City thrive un­der pres­sure to book semi-fi­nal spot

- NJABULO NGIDI

BERNARD MOLEKWA cred­its mo­ti­va­tion and hard work for go­ing from hav­ing a sharp axe hang­ing over his neck to be­ing two matches away from hav­ing a gold medal dan­gle on that neck by help­ing Polok­wane City win their first tro­phy.

Rise and Shine stunned Or­lando Pi­rates at Or­lando Sta­dium on Satur­day to elim­i­nate them in the quar­ter-fi­nals of the Telkom Knock­out with a 4-2 win on penal­ties af­ter the match ended 2-2 af­ter ex­tra-time. Polok­wane will now fight for a place in the tour­na­ment’s fi­nal for the first time in the club’s his­tory con­fi­dent af­ter claim­ing the scalp of the Buc­ca­neers.

“As a team we feel that we can still im­prove,” Molekwa said. “We feel that we can achieve good things. Last sea­son we fin­ished well (by fin­ish­ing sixth, the best fin­ish in the club’s his­tory). We wanted to start this sea­son well to build on that per­for­mance, un­for­tu­nately it didn’t go as planned. We still have to work harder. In terms of the cup, it’s dif­fi­cult for me to talk about the fi­nal be­fore the semi-fi­nal. But if it hap­pens that we go to the fi­nal, it would be good for the club. I be­lieve that the club would grow. It would be good for the play­ers be­cause at the end of the day they are the ones who are putting in a lot of ef­fort. I ap­pre­ci­ate the way they are play­ing and the way they are be­hav­ing. It shows that if we work as a team and we are one, we can achieve a lot of things.”

Two months ago Molekwa didn’t look like he would still be with Polok­wane at the end of the year, let alone achieve some­thing with them af­ter los­ing four matches in a row, which is dis­as­trous for a coach of a club that has had eight coaches in the last five years and a string of oth­ers who served in the in­terim in be­tween, in­clud­ing Molekwa. The fourth loss, against Cape Town City in Septem­ber, was mired in con­tro­versy that led to the sus­pen­sion of ref­eree Cedrick Mu­vhali and as­sis­tant ref­eree Pa­trick Jafta. An emo­tional Molekwa said such de­ci­sions could cost him his job. But he is still stand­ing.

The club’s re­vival started with a 2-2 draw with the Buc­ca­neers at Peter Mok­aba Sta­dium in Septem­ber as part of their five­match un­beaten run. Polok­wane are un­beaten against the big “three”, hav­ing drawn with Pi­rates and Kaizer Chiefs in the league af­ter beat­ing Mamelodi Sun­downs. The win over Sun­downs went to their heads, mak­ing the play­ers think that they had ar­rived – es­pe­cially af­ter their good fin­ish last sea­son. That hurt them as it was fol­lowed by a four-match los­ing streak.

“We were play­ing well but we weren’t get­ting the re­quired re­sults,” Molekwa said. “I al­ways mo­ti­vate the play­ers. We al­ways get mo­ti­va­tion from man­age­ment, that even if things aren’t go­ing but we still have to re­group and make sure that we work harder. You will get noth­ing if you don’t work hard. The more you work hard, the more you will get pos­i­tive re­sults. In the games that we lost, we saw our mis­takes and the ar­eas we lacked in. We worked hard on those short­com­ings. This shows that we are com­ing al­right al­though we are not at that level that we want. But the good thing is that we are able to get re­sults. We will keep work­ing hard and we be­lieve that we can im­prove as a team.”

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