The root of Orlando Pirates’ problems stems from their signing policy. The club has a penchant of over-buying what they don’t need and neglecting departments that they struggled in. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
The root of Orlando Pirates’ problems stems from their signing policy. The club has a penchant of over-buying what they don’t need and neglecting departments that they struggled in.

Pirates’ biggest problem last season was their defence. Its porous nature robbed them of the Absa Premiership title.

The only missing piece of the puzzle that was almost complete was a reliable centre-back. They were linked with Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo but nothing materialised despite “Tyson” revealing he would like to leave the Clever Boys.

Those problems have been rudely exposed this season.

Without their captain Happy Jele, Pirates were short on leadership and experience in central defence in Saturday’s PSL Soweto Derby, and Kaizer Chiefs took advantage of that with Mthokozisi Dube, a reliable fullback, also suspended for the match at FNB Stadium that Amakhosi won 3-2.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for the opposition coach (Ernst Middendorp),” Pirates coach Rhulani Mokwena said.

“I think that he pays attention to detail. The team is well-coached and you could see the plan was there. The reality is that the aerial balls were not coming to the central corridor, they were actually going on the overloaded side of the right. That is a qualitative superiority.

“(Samir) Nurkovic is six-foot-something and (Abel) Mabaso is five-foot-something. Even if you talk about Happy not being there, it wasn’t in the position where we were struggling with aerial balls. It was in the fullback positions.

“You could see even in the second half when they took off (Leonardo) Castro, Nurkovic then went to try and get qualitative superiority on Paseka Mako.

“That’s how football is, it’s a game of chess. You read some of the things, the movements and the plans and you try to be able to deal with it. You can’t stretch the player and make him taller.”

The club’s other struggle is that they place too much emphasis on how they play, without accepting that they will win some games ugly. Their search for perfection frustrates their fans who watch a team that hasn’t won anything in years continue to struggle to bring in silverware.

“We have worked very hard in terms of trying to build our style of play, our game model,” Mokwena said.

“It started with the previous head coach (Micho Sredojevic). The difficulty has been about introducing the new players and trying to adapt to the new style of play, a new environment to rebuild a new team. We understand the process and what happened with our team we know why we are where we are and the transition that took place.

“We knew that at the beginning of the season we had to make a face-lift on the squad, and when you do that, let go of 15 players and bring in 11 players, off course there is an adaptation that needs to take place.

“While still trying to manage that and work with the group with the adaptation that needs to take place, the players have done extremely well to make sure that they protect the reputation and integrity of the club which is the most important thing,” Mokwena concluded.

Bonginkosi Ndadane