JOHANNESBURG – Justin Shonga is itching to show what it is exactly that his striking partnership with compatriot Augustine Mulenga, who’s been in and out of the Orlando Pirates side because of injuries, can do this season.
The Zambian received a boost during this most recent Fifa break as he scored two goals for Chipolopolo.
The first came in the 1-1 draw away to Namibia in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, and the second three days later against Gabon in a friendly match, the 1-0 victory which gave Sven Vandenbroeck his first win as national team coach.
Although Mulenga started in the stalemate in Windhoek, it was Shonga who came off the bench to spare Zambia their blushes as defeat would have left them on the verge of missing out on the continental tournament in Cameroon next year.
“I haven’t scored a lot for Pirates this season, so it was good to go away on the international break and get two goals for my country,” says Shonga.
He is hoping this form continues tonight (8.15pm kickoff) when the Buccaneers resume their Absa Premiership campaign against SuperSport United at Orlando Stadium.
It must have felt like a heavy burden off his shoulders to finally rattle the back of the net after he’d fluffed a couple at his club, most notably being the one-on-one chance in Pirates’ 1-0 defeat to Bidvest Wits last month.
“That still haunts me,” Shonga says, recalling his clear-cut goal scoring moment with just goalkeeper Darren Keet to beat in the first half of that loss.
“I felt I let the team down, especially because we ended up losing the game. It was still 0-0 when I missed that chance, but these things happen in football.
“Maybe I made the wrong decision. But I am determined to make up for it.
“I have only managed to score from a penalty (in Pirates’ league opener against Highlands Park), and then the other one ended up being an own goal from my free kick.”
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He and Mulenga could be paired tonight with his confidence back, and his countryman likely to replace the suspended Thamsanqa Gabuza.
“I have known him for a long time and he is like a brother to me,” Shonga says of Mulenga.
“Our combination can work. I am sure of that, but it is difficult when he’s in and out because of these small injuries.
“I always feel bad for him because I know how good he is and what we can do together and show that we are good strikers.
“We finished well last season (Shonga scored three goals in Pirates’ last three matches), and the expectation is that we should be even better this time.”