Rugby coach Joey Mongalo is on the comeback trail but has had to mute his celebrations after completing his degree in industrial psychology.

Mongalo’s graduation at the University of Pretoria is on ice after the restrictions imposed on public gatherings as a result of Covid-19. Mongalo however can handle a setback.

He hit the headlines last April when he was found guilty of indecent assault in Sydney but an Australian district court set that ruling aside in December.

He has since been rebuilding his career and is back at his long-time employer‚ the Lions, who largely stood by him during his ordeal. He believes completing his honours degree in industrial psychology before moving on to his master’s has given him a much better understanding of his workplace and how to deal with people in ways that will help unlock their potential.

“It has been a dream of mine‚” Mongalo said proudly of his degree on Thursday. “I wanted to better understand players not just what makes them rugby players. This goes a long way to help me develop that understanding.”

The 35-year-old is keen to use what he learnt as a coach.

“I very much want to use it as a coach and to help build my career. I was defence coach at the Lions but there were a lot of distractions in 2019. In 2018 things went a lot better and we were able to reach the Super Rugby final.”

There was no high-profile return to the coaching ranks for Mongalo. When the Lions made their coaching appointments in September 2019, he still had the indecent assault cloud over his head. His acquittal in Australia arrived too late for him to be part of that coaching group.

In February he returned to the union he had served for almost a decade. Mongalo is attack coach of the Lions under-21s as well as their SuperSport Challenge team under Mzwakhe Nkosi.

He has also been involved as defence coach at Wits‚ who are unbeaten in the Varsity Cup. He believes the respective roles he is now in will help serve as a springboard to more prominent appointments.

Mongalo‚ who started a business that involves him coaching coaches, sees himself as a head coach in the future. It seems he is ready to emerge from the shadows.