JOHANNESBURG – Siphesihle Ndlovu’s career grew in leaps and bounds at Maritzburg United but he admits he hardly expected to make a seamless adaptation at Orlando Pirates.
In March 2015, the 18-year-old aspiring footballer was a ballboy when Maritzburg welcomed Kaizer Chiefs at the Harry Gwala Stadium.
But it was not what he was doing on the day that changed his life forever, instead it was what he promised himself having helped out that one time.
“I started as a ballboy. I remember the game, it was Maritzburg United versus Kaizer Chiefs,” Ndlovu reminisced. “Itumeleng Khune was the goalkeeper, and we were leading, so he wanted the ball and I said that he should come and grab it, and that was funny. That was my last day, but I said ‘let me believe in myself, I can make it up there but I just have to work harder’.”
Ndlovu stayed true to his promise, and progressed via the MultiChoice Diski Challenge (reserve league).
In December 2016, Ndlovu made his top-flight debut against Bidvest Wits. However, the following season under Fadlu Davids the Team of Choice flourished and concluded the season as the Nedbank Cup runner-up, while finishing a record fourth place finish in the league.
Following poor results early last season, Davids, 38, was sent packing at Maritzburg, before Pirates snapped him up in January as the second assistant to Micho Sredojevic, who was already deputised by Rhulani Mokwena.
Six months later, Ndlovu and Fortune Makaringe, who had saved the Team of Choice from relegation, reunited with their former mentor at the Sea Robbers.
“He’s helped me with a lot of things and my relationship with coach Fadlu goes beyond football,” Ndlovu explained. “He advises me with life, how I should behave. We have a lot of trust in each other and he’s the one that helped me to achieve what I’ve achieved so far.”
Life for Ndlovu has got off to a better start than he had anticipated - he recently made back-to-back starting line-up appearances.
“Individually, I didn’t expect to be in the starting Xl when the season started because the team was doing very well (last season). I had come here to add value, and add pressure to the players that were playing.”
However the team has failed to win in the last six matches, still coming to terms with the abrupt resignation of Sredojevic, who joined Egyptian side Zamalek SC.
With the team now steered by Mokwena, Pirates will be looking for their first win in seven matches when they clash with Chippa United at home this afternoon (3pm).
“Coach Rhulani and the whole staff (that includes Davids) have the similar mindset, so it’s been easy to interact with them,” Ndlovu said.
“Rhulani and I are getting to know each other, and he advises me a lot on the game model. We are turning things around, surely.”