Evidence Makgopa pivotal to Orlando Pirates’ CAF Champions League hopes

Kaizer Chiefs player Yusuf Maart and Orlando Pirates Evidence Makgopa battle for the ball during the Soweto derby at Soccer City Stadium

Bafana star Evidence Makgopa (pictured centre) will be the main attraction for Orlando Pirates when they take on Polokwane City in the DStv Premiership on Saturday. Picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 2, 2024


All eyes will be on Orlando Pirates striker Evidence Makgopa to lead the team’s attack against hosts Polokwane City in Saturday’s DStv Premiership clash at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, Limpopo (kick-off 3.30pm).

Since his stellar performances for Bafana Bafana at Afcon, Makgopa has attracted much interest from far and wide. He hasn’t yet proved his status as a genuine match winner, but his game continues to thrive because of the morale-boosting encouragement from national team coach Hugo Broos.

Makgopa’s performance will be pivotal on two fronts. Pirates’ head honcho, Spaniard José Riveiro, has vowed his team will in future target maximum points in each game. Riveiro is also motivated to secure a place in next season’s continental competitions.

Polokwane’s rearguard will have their hands full in trying to contain Makgopa in the striking zone. Makgopa is a lively player with a penchant for off-the-ball play. His constant movement off the ball has resulted in opposition defences losing shape, and that creates opportunities for his fellow front runners.

First steps at a big club

“And after his performance in the Ivory Coast, I think nobody has doubts about his potential. But still, he’s 23, making his first steps into a big club like Pirates,” said Riveiro.

“He needs to know that there is an opportunity in the second half of the season to show that he can do much better.”

Riveiro said Makgopa’s transformation has come about primarily because of the confidence he enjoyed at Bafana.

“That’s the key, confidence. That’s probably the biggest change when you speak about Evidence,” said Riveiro.

“It’s about confidence. It was not easy for the boy. He went through a difficult period when he started to play for us continuously in the league.

“Sometimes the feedback he got from the stands was not fair, but he managed to navigate it. He has made the situation a strength and motivation for him to show his quality.

“There’s potential for more (sound performances). He is not feeling relaxed or feeling that he’s already got a permanent starting berth because the competition is still strong.

“So the best is still coming for him, I’m sure. He needs to keep that level of confidence and keep delivering for the team.”

Double trouble

At the other end, Polokwane has a two-prong threat that will also enjoy scrutiny and keep “Rise and Shine” hopes of winning alive.

Midfielder-cum-striker Oswin Appollis and Zimbabwe winger Douglas Mapfumo are a growing threat and Pirates’ defence will have a full day shift trying to contain them.

Appollis was impressive in his only Afcon appearance in Ivory Coast and since then has become a Kaizer Chiefs and Pirates transfer target. Broos rates him highly and looks at him as a future key player in the national team.

In their last outing, Polokwane lost to Richards Bay, but Polokwane interim coach Phuti Mohafe feels that lessons learnt in that match will stand them in good stead against Pirates.