While many clubs are starting their pre-season preparations, Orlando Pirates have just ended one of the worst seasons in their history.
To call their 4-1 defeat to SuperSport United in the Nedbank Cup on Saturday a “hiding” would be an understatement. Kjell Jonevret’s men were like a bunch of headless chickens running around aimlessly with absolutely no idea what to do.
It was that bad, and Jonevret will be wondering just how to turn around the club’s fortunes.
For the last season, the Pirates squad has been carrying a few pedestrians. Does anyone actually know what Thabo Rakhale’s purpose is apart from using his showboating to get his name into the UK press?
And what about Thamsanqa Gabuza? A striker’s job is to score goals, and Gabuza has been getting praised by Jonevret and new national team boss Stuart Baxter, but he’s still not done much. Someone remarked that Gabuza reminded them of former Liverpool striker Emile Heskey. But, Heskey scored goals on a more regular basis than Gabuza.
And, then there’s their ageing captain, who, at 28, would fool you into thinking he is a seasoned veteran approaching the twilight of his football career. Oupa Manyisa, once the darling of Pirates fans all over the country looked clueless on Saturday, although, at times, he was their best player.
There was a moment when the skipper gathered the ball in the middle of the park, and without a single player around him, and with loads of space to move forward, he tumbled over his feet, signifying how the season has gone for the country’s greatest ever football club.
In their 80th year of existence, many Buccaneers around the country expected their team to at least challenge for the title, and play the kind of football that has been associated with Pirates brand for such a long time.
But, they were let down, and they will be looking at the team and wondering what the coach will have to do in order to make a comeback next season.
The club have never been able to find a reliable replacement for Senzo Meyiwa, who was murdered three years ago. Siyabonga Mpontshane was one of their best players in the final in Durban, but he’s never been reliable enough to be seen as a long-term option between the sticks, while Jackson Mabokgwane and Brigthon Mhlongo are puzzlers at best.
The Pirates defence is one area that Jonevret will have some positive feelings about. The likes of Happy Jele, Abbubakker Mobara, Thabo Matlaba and Ayanda Gcaba proved to be solid in the latter parts of the season, but on Saturday, they were all over the place, perhaps signifying that too much time has passed between the last game of the league and the Cup final.
Jonevret will have to make the hard decision next season to drop some dead weight and replace them with players who will be willing to fight hard for the jersey and each other.
Tendai Ndoro started the season like a house on fire, scoring 11 goals in the first 11 games, exciting all fans, giving them the hope that they were going to be fighting for the title at the end of the campaign. How he finished off the season with just 12 goals, considering he spent minimal time on the treatment table, will continue to baffle many spectators and pundits. Along with Rakhale, one would think they would be the first names on the coach’s chopping block.
The club have continuously been linked with SuperSport United goalkeeper Ronwen Williams. If they want to regain their rightful place among South Africa’s top clubs, perhaps they need make the Port Elizabeth-born shot-stopper, plus a prolific striker, their main priority.
A club so rich in history should not be hanging around fighting for scraps with the bottom feeders.
By Lunga Biyela