Orlando Pirates need to get off to fast start in the league
JOHANNESBRG - Orlando Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer should know that his modest and cautious approach won’t cut it at the club this season as he has to churn out the goods.
Early in December, Zinnbauer took over the reins at the club with less pressure, having merely been tasked to steer the team out of troubled waters following an underwhelming stint under interim coach Rhulani Mokwena.
But such was the German’s start that, despite being initially criticised for his poor track record, he punched above his weight and ensured the team finished third on the Premiership standings, qualifying for the CAF Confederation Cup.
That was an achievement for the 50-year-old coach, considering that he didn’t have a full pre-season with the team and with the club making just one signing during the January transfer window - an injured Nkanyiso Zungu from Stellenbosch FC.
The start of the new campaign, however, offered Zinnbauer his first full pre-season with the team and he got rid of the dead wood and lured in new blood.
Pirates released players such as Tercious Malepe, Diamond Thopola, Alfred Ndengane, Meshack Maphangule, Brian Hlongwa, Thembela Sikhakhane, Xola Mlambo, Augustine Mulenga and Justin Shonga.
And the new era includes Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo, Terrence Dzvukamanja, Deon Hotto, Thabang Monare, Collins Makgaka, Wayde Jooste and Richard Ofori.
In the former Bidvest Wits duo of Hlatshwayo and Monare, Zinnbauer has seasoned campaigners who have won the Premiership title, MTN8 title and Telkom Knockout.
Gabadinho Mhango, Pirates’ and the league’s joint top goal scorer last season, Vincent Pule and Ben Motshwari played an integral role in Zinnbauer’s efforts last season.
Ther German coach appears to have grasped what’s expected of him this season, having already led the team to the semi-finals of the MTN8 cup competition after his charges defeated hoodoo side Cape Town City 1-0 in the quarter-finals last weekend.
The fact that that goal was orchestrated by newbies - assisted by Jooste and scored by Dzvukamanja - should excite Zinnbauer. And the German should be looking forward to the fact that he might make his first domestic cup final at the expense of arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs.
The road to the Wafa Wafa competition final is completed over two legs, though, and that’s why top of Zinnbauer’s priority list at the moment is getting their Premiership campaign off to a flying start away to AmaZulu on Saturday.
A spot in the MTN8 semi-finals and a winning start in the league should set Pirates on course to end their run of six seasons without a trophy, right?
At least ‘The Ghost’, who’ve backed the club through thick and thin, might start to think so.