Kjell Jonevret, coach of Orlando Pirates during the 2017 Carling Black Label Cup Orlando press conference at Orlando Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – As if having the fans take over the selection of his starting line-up was not bad enough, Kjell Jonevret has to lead Orlando Pirates against their bitter rivals Kaizer Chiefs with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over his head.

A sterner test of the Swede’s character there never has been.

How he fares in today’s Carling Black Label Champion Cup (FNB Stadium, 3.30pm) will perhaps provide a picture of Jonevret’s suitability for arguably the toughest and most insecure coaching post in local football.

Having joined the club midway through last season, Jonevret could not really be fairly assessed as he took over a side already in trouble.

And so it was that this will be the season in which the 55-year-old coach was to show the country what it was that attracted Bucs chairman Irvin Khoza to him.

Though a friendly, the Carling Cup is often seen as a match to set the tone for the season ahead, more so as it is between the country’s greatest rivals.

The coaches' hands are tied as regards the starting line-ups, which are voted for by the fans. And there’s also the fact a fan also gets to coach the team. But a Soweto Derby remains just that, and the results are always regarded as bearing on everyone involved, especially the coaches.

For Jonevret it gets even worse this afternoon, with the murmurings he could be on his way out, to be replaced by former Buccaneers coach Milutin Srejedovic.

Naturally, there have been denials all round that the man known as 'Micho' will be leaving the Uganda national team, where his salary has not been paid in a while, to return to Pirates.

Jonevret himself delivered that all too familiar line - "I am focused on the job and not bothered about rumours" - coaches under pressure love to spew.

The truth though is he must fear for his job, who wouldn’t when coaching a club as big as Pirates, where silverware is the only measure of success?

And with the desperation of a need to win something before their 80th anniversary comes to an end in December, Jonevret knows he has to deliver or bust. It is that simple.

Will the Carling Cup trophy count? Of course it won’t. But it will appease the fans somewhat, and help give the players the much-needed confidence to tackle the season ahead.

And for Jonevret, it will buy him some breathing space from a fan base still reeling from the disappointment of the past term that saw their team miss out on a top eight finish for the first time in 30 years.

A pity then that the team was chosen by the fans, for this would have been a perfect match for him to try out the new arrivals who - based on their showings at their previous clubs - look good enough to add the quality that should help spark Pirates to a life they so lacked in the previous campaign.

Sure it will be Nkoko Nkoko - the Champion Coach - leading the team today, but do not be fooled, Jonovret will be in charge. He has to be, if only to shut out all talk of Micho coming back.

Saturday Star

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