For a club with a squad as big as Orlando Pirates have, the last thing you expect is to hear them lament player fatigue.
After all, with 30 quality players on their books, the Buccaneers should be able to field any team and still be competitive, right?
Yet, the reality is that new coach Muhsin Ertugral is still working hard to impose his ways on a team he has made significant changes to after joining at the beginning of the season.
And so it was with a sense of frustration at the weekend that the well-travelled Turkish coach reviewed his team’s 1-1 draw at Polokwane City, Ertugral is pulling his hair out at the fact his is a squad teeming with internationals.
While he was loath to use it as an excuse for his team being over-run and actually lucky to get a point from that Absa Premiership match thanks to Tendai Ndoro’s injury-time equaliser, Ertugral couldn’t help himself.
“I don’t want to go there. But we had nine internationals out on national duty (in the past weeks),” he said at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane. “(Edwin) Gymah returned (from playing for his country Ghana) injured. Mpho (Makola) is tired and Thabo (Matlaba) just got back from Bafana Bafana. (Abbubaker) Mobara is overplayed.”
To which most will respond, rest them and play the other quality players in your squad. After all, what good is having a big squad if you’re going to complain about fatigue?
Ertugral’s challenge though is that he is still working on imposing his way of playing on the team.
And with his players apparently slow on the uptake, the man who has previously coached no less than four teams in South Africa’s elite league is clearly heavily reliant on the core he has seemingly already established, making using the other players somewhat defeatist.
“I’m not too concerned (that they’ve not won in three matches). We needed to have thrown enough punch to it (their attacks). We played with a lopsided game and it was important that we understood the tactical patterns, but we didn’t.”
Their lesser opponents understood theirs, leaving coach Luc Eymael a content man although he was understandably not happy with the outcome.
“We lost two points here,” he said of the draw that saw Puleng Tlolane give them the lead with a peach of a goal early in the second half and the hosts creating enough chances to have won the match at a canter. “We overplayed Pirates but the guys thought they had already scored before they could get the ball into the net. Three times we had one-on-one and we also hit the post. When you succeed in overplaying Pirates and you don’t score it is a lesson for you. So, I’m very disappointed with the result but happy with the way the players played.”
As the two teams now turn their focus on the Telkom Knockout, Ertugral will no doubt look for some improved showing from his team and probably find himself having to ring the changes, if only to give his fatigued internationals a break.
Eymael, on the other hand, will ask for more of the same from his boys albeit with more clinical finishing.