DURBAN - Orlando Pirates assistant coach, Rhulani Mokwena, has refused to confirm or deny rumours that the club is working tirelessly to lure Bidvest Wits and Bafana Bafana captain, Thulani "Tyson" Hlatshwayo.
Pirates have been heavily linked with the hard-tackling defender but neither Wits nor the Bucanneers have come out about any interest in Hlatshwayo. Former Pirates defender, Siyabonga Sangweni recently told the media that Hlatshwayo is the missing puzzle in Bucs' defence. Pirates are believed to be willing to let go of Thabo Matlaba and Mpho Makola or even Abbubaker Mobara in their attempt to sign the Bafana skipper.
However, Mokwena refused to be drawn to any speculation regarding Hlatshwayo when he interacted with the media in Durban on Monday during the launch of SAB Under-21 National Championship. "No comment. I can't talk about other team's players because I know where is that question going," he said.
"We've got seven center backs. (Gladwin) Shitolo, (Ntsikelelo) Nyauza, Happy Jele, (Marshall) Munetsi. We got quite a few centerbacks. We still got Justice Chabalala. We also have two center backs that were on loan from the NFD, Brian Hlongwa (who was at Real Kings) and Sandile Mthethwa (who was with Richards Bay FC). We've got a lot, we are covered."
Pirates are currently in Zambia when they are busy with their preparations for the new season. The club is set to trim the squad following the shopping spree of nine recruitments. Pirates acquired the services of Brilliant Khuzwayo, Abel Mabaso, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Paseka Mako, Linda Mntambo, Vincent Pule and Meshack Maphangule.
Pirates have tried different combinations in their central defence to no avail since the departure of Sangweni, Rooi Mahamutsa and the retired Lucky Lekgwathi. Hlatshwayo is seen as that type of the defender that will bring leadership in defence. Mokwena refused to comment when asked if they are still looking to improve their squad.
Pirates is set to get rid of Nkosinathi Mthiyane, Issa Sarr, Wayne Sandilands, Makola, Matlaba, Thamsanqa Sangweni and Thamsanqa Gabuza who all struggled for game time last season. The Bucanneers will be looking to improve on their second place finished in the Absa Premiership log in the new season and end the club's four year barren run. Pirates won their last piece of silverware back in 2014 when they lifted the Nedbank Cup at the expense of Wits at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.