Innocent Maela in action against Chippa United. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - Unlike their Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates showed intent to improve on the previous season by handing out four debuts in their opening PSL fixture at the weekend, a 1-0 victory over Chippa United.

Their coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic has harped out about the mental fatigue his men have endured on the back of a horror show of a campaign when they finished in 11th place and outside the top eight for the first time in the Premier League era. 

It made sense, then, to try to quickly blend in the new faces, who hardly put a foot wrong in a game that only produced the solitary goal, was nervy towards the end, but was a win nonetheless. Here we look at those debutants and the potential impact they may have this season at the Buccaneers.

Wayne Sandilands

Arrived from: Mamelodi Sundowns

Age: 33

The Buccaneers had three very adequate options in the goalkeeping department throughout the previous season, but that proved to only be on paper as Brighton Mhlongo (now on loan at Chippa), Siyabonga Mpontshane and Jackson Mabokgwane let in 49 goals between them in all competitions. Instead of hoping they'd pull up their socks in the new term, Pirates wasted no time grabbing free-agent Sandilands. 

With his experience both internationally and in the domestic league, the one-time Bafana shot-stopper is going to be an incredible asset at the club. He was hardly tested against Chippa, keeping a clean sheet on debut, but was up to the task when striker Moeketsi Sekola asked questions of him.

Innocent Maela

Arrived from: Thanda Royal Zulu

Age: 25

He said he was surprised to see his name in the starting line-up. But the new Pirates leftback might have already claimed that position as his own so early on with a Man of the Match performance on Saturday, setting up Thamsanqa Gabuza for the winning goal. Maela, the half brother of Chiefs defender Tsepo Masilela, who also plays at leftback, captained Thanda on their way to securing promotion from the National First Division, before selling their status to AmaZulu, and he returned to his parent club following his loan spell. 

Pirates went back and forth between Patrick Phungwayo and Marc van Heerden on the left side of defence last season with neither of them convincing, but Maela has made a lasting first impression on coach "Micho" Sredojevic, and will probably light up the topflight if his debut is anything to go by.

Musa Nyatama

Arrived from: Bloemfontein Celtic

Age: 30

Another experienced and mature player in the ranks, the former Sundowns midfield ace is back in the spotlight and is expected to offer his new side the creative build-up they have been craving for some time now. Nyatama is possibly viewed as a replacement for Oupa Manyisa, who has since moved on to Sundowns. 

There was very little in terms of imagination from the new signing in midfield against Chippa and he was later substituted, but his quality is not necessarily in doubt. Should he start against Baroka on Tuesday, which is likely, Nyatama will have to prove - very quickly - that he can create and score goals in a season of redemption for Pirates.

Thamsanqa Sangweni

Arrived from: Chippa United

Age: 28

It looks like he has displaced anchorman Issa Sarr from the preferred eleven and he, too, would have deserved the Man of the Match accolade had it not gone the way of fellow debutant Maela. Sangweni showed grit and composure for the most part of the encounter - against his former club. 

Along with Abbubaker Mobara, his job was to protect a new-look back four, cut Chippa’s supply from the middle and allow Nyatama and Co. the freedom to pile on the pressure. He was a tad aggressive, as was expected given his record when it comes to bookings, and will have to work on being a reliable holding midfielder who doesn’t have the occasional sudden rush of blood to the head.

The Star

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