Happy Jele happy to share derby advice with youthful Orlando Pirates teammates
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CAPE TOWN – Orlando Pirates’ longest serving squad member, captain Happy Jele, has warned his younger teammates not to play the occasion but their normal game when they face Kaizer Chiefs for the third time this season.
Having been second-best in three Soweto Derbies last season, Pirates finally returned to winning ways in the epic showdown this term, hammering their rivals 5-0 on aggregate in the MTN8 semi-finals late last year.
Those performances laid the perfect foundation for Pirates to go all the way and win their first silverware in six years. But the script has been flipped heading into tomorrow’s encounter at Orlando Stadium, as Chiefs have been on a resurgence while Pirates are struggling to hit the high notes.
The Glamour Boys have won 11 points out of a possible 15 in their last five league matches, while the Buccaneers have collected eight.
Knowing that the Derby “can either make or break you”, Jele has asked his teammates to stick to their game plan.
“We just work on the field. We (must) support each other on the day. We try to motivate the guys that have never played in the Derby before. They need to be calm and do their best on the field. The Derby can break or make you as a player.”
Jele will be the most capped player on the pitch in the country’s biggest football match, having made his senior debut at Pirates almost 15 years ago.
After being in and out of the team earlier this season, the 34-yearold appeared to have lost his place in Pirates’ defence, but he clawed his way back in recent matches partnering Thulani Hlatshwayo at centre-back.
“I’ve been working so hard each and every day, waiting for my chance and supporting the guys that have been playing. I’ve been in the game before. I know what the coach wants when he selects the players on that particular day,” Jele said.
“As the captain, I have to support everyone in the team because we have one goal.”
With Jele having been part of the defensive unit in the last five matches, Pirates have conceded three goals, while they’ve scored four. That conversion rate has been worrying for a team that is said to have one of the most potent striking forces in the top-flight.
Coach Josef Zinnbauer, though, is aware of his team’s misfortunes, which has seen some of the team’s supporters call for his head, but he stresses that poor conditioning and injuries to strikers such as Gabadinho Mhango, Zakhele Lepasa and Tshegofatso Mabasa have resulted in their setbacks.