JOHANNESBURG – Many of Orlando Pirates’ new recruits, officially revealed yesterday afternoon by the club, were no secret - but there was a slight twist.
Vincent Pule was one of the nine fresh faces at the Buccaneers ahead of the 2018-19 season, even though he’d been strongly linked to rivals Kaizer Chiefs. In fact, in an interview four months ago the then Bidvest Wits winger said he was looking forward to his next challenge with the Glamour Boys.
And it wasn’t long after the end of previous season that Pule was immediately reported to be edging closer to a move in the opposite direction, although Pirates were mum when asked about any of their latest signing.
He spent four seasons at Wits and really only became a regular last season and had been a bit part player as the Clever Boys ended a 96-year league title drought.
Perhaps the resignation of Steve Komphela at Chiefs had something to do with the sudden turn of events. Pule and Komphela share an agent.
Yesterday, the Buccaneers also confirmed the arrivals of goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo, Ben Motshwari, Meshack Maphangule, Asavela Mbekile, Linda Mntambo, Abel Mabaso, Paseka Mako and Kudakwashe Mahachi.
Khuzwayo, 28, spent seven years at Chiefs, but could not make the No 1 jersey his own because of incredibly stiff competition from Itumeleng Khune, who has joked before that his deputy will only get game time when he is injured or in hospital ill.
The player joins Pirates as a free agent. So does Motshwari (from Wits) and Mbekile (from Sundowns).
These signings have been largely viewed as the club’s way of showing intent in competing on all fronts next season. Pirates finished as runners-up to Absa Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns, had failed to make the MTN8, were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the Telkom Knockout, as well as the Nedbank Cup.
But there was some victory to claim for coach Micho Sredojevic as holding on to second place meant Pirates were back in the CAF Champions League for the first time in five years.
The arrival of nine players, with more likely to be announced before a new campaign kicks off in August, suggests the league title and the Champions League will be a priority.
Micho himself said the upcoming season will be a true test for a Pirates outfit that has been struggling since coming so close to winning the continental title in 2013 when, with Roger de Sa as coach, they were beaten over the two legs in the final by Egypt’s Al Ahly.
They’ve never quite been the same and chopped and changed coaches - Micho becoming the seventh since that Champions League heartbreak.