Jackson Mabokgwane is looking forward to the season ahead with new goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo also in goal. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane has rolled out the red carpet and welcomed two of the club’s new additions, goalkeeper coach Andrew Sparkes and fellow keeper Brilliant Khuzwayo.

The reason for such a reception is because he sees the duo as fellow soldiers who he’ll closely work with in trying to achieve the same goal of propelling the club to success.

“We are a family,” Mabokgwane said. “We are just one big family working towards one goal. We are happy to have the department strengthened. As I always say, for me, it’s important to have other soldiers who can work with.

"At the end of the day, we are not competing against each other but against our opponents. It’s important we work hard and push each other.”

Khuzwayo’s transfer from rivals Kaizer Chiefs to the Bucs headquarters has been well received by many of the club’s faithful in the past few weeks, especially after years of him playing second fiddle to Itumeleng Khune. It is unfortunate, though, that he’ll have to watch the first month of the new season at home after suffering a knee injury.

In tonight’s clash against Highlands Park in the Absa Premiership at home, one of Mabokgwane, Wayne Sandilands and Siyabonga Mpontshane will get a chance to make an early impression.

The three keepers were all given a run in the Sea Robbers' revamp campaign but it was Mabokgwane who donned the famous black and white number one jersey the most.

But the lad from Polokwane is not being carried away, thinking he’ll walk straight back into the starting line-up. He knows he'll have to put in the hard work.

“I played a part in the season we've just had,” he explained. “But I can’t call it a success because for a big club like this success means winning things. It was an okay season but for me it’s important I do better than last season. My personal ambition is to play more games, and collect more points.

"I want to push myself to a higher level and the goalkeeper coach (Sparkes) has really pushed us in the pre-season. I think the best is yet to come. So for me it’s about pushing myself hard and making sure I stay really focused and the rest will follow.”

Mabokgwane and company had the fourth best defensive record in the league last campaign as they finished as runners-up.

Much of the praise went to coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic and his assistant Rulani Mokwena for the tactical approach, flair and disciplined football with an attacking mentality that they played. And another aspect the duo managed to instill is the off-the-field professional and fatherly relationship they have with players.

“Professionalism means growth,” Mabokgwane emphasised. “You don’t have to be a footballer to know the more you learn the more you grow.”

On being dubbed as one of the favourites to win the league this season, the shot-stopper simply said: “All I can say is it's a new season and we are first focusing on this first game, then on one game at a time.”


Saturday Star

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