Can Zinnbauer hit the ground running when the PSL restarts?
Josef Zinnbauer must be anxious about the uncertainty surrounding the resumption of the domestic season, considering he’s hoping to consolidate one of the biggest breakthroughs in South African football in the first six months.
It was back in December when the German graced our shores tasked with the huge task of steering the Orlando Pirates ship out of troubled waters after an underwhelming stint under interim coach Rhulani Mokwena.
Then an unknown figure and with an unappealing record, Zinnbauer’s appointment was met with bemusement by “The Ghost’ and critics.
But such was his mettle, acumen and wisdom in his first three months at Pirates that the ability to quickly inject his free-flowing attacking football philosophy into his charges was enough to turn his detractors into admirers.
Before Covid-19 brought the season to a halt, Orlando Stadium was once again becoming a fortress. This was backed by some impressive results, including beating defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
For years it has been common for Sundowns to take something away from their short trip from Chloorkop to Soweto. But that wasn’t the case with Zinnbauer at the helm as a solitary goal from Gabandinho Mhango ended the Brazilians’ impressive run at Orlando.
That was the German’s second win at home and third in his first four matches - a fairytale start.
With every game, the Buccaneers grew in confidence and not only were they appealing on the eye as a unit, but individuals started to come out of their shells with Mhango leading the league’s scoring charts with 14 goals.
When Covid-19 struck, Zinnbauer had taken Bucs from the bottom half of the table to fourth thanks to seven wins, two draws and a loss.
It’s been four months since football was halted, but with the feud between the South African Football Association and the PSL the restart of the season is up in the air.
Zinnbauer has downplayed his team’s chances of overtaking leaders Kaizer Chiefs and second-placed Sundowns, trailing them by eight and four points respectively, but a continental qualifying position for a top-three finish remains an objective.
But the restart and conclusion of the season, in the agreed ‘bio bubble’ will not only give them a chance to qualify for their third successive continental competition but Zinnbauer will learn which departments to strengthen come next season.
In a bid to compete on all fronts, the Buccaneers are reported to have already signed Bafana Bafana captain and defender Thulani Hlatswayo, winger Deon Hotto and goalkeeper Brandon Petersen, all from Wits.