The moment Josef Zinnbauer gets his head around what his new job description entails, the quicker he’ll earn his stripes in South African football.
Zinnbauer’s appointment as the new Orlando Pirates coach on Tuesday was met with bemusement by the Bucs’ faithful, following his underwhelming billing in continental and international football, despite coaching stints at home in Germany.
And the fact that he’s only amassed a 38% winning record during his career didn’t help his cause either, many already tipping him as a receipe for disaster.
But it is not entirely his fault that his appointment, which was announced by the club on social media, wasn’t embraced by the Bucs’ faithful. Many of his kind - relatively unknown and with unimpressive records - have failed to cut it at a club of Pirates' calibre, let alone in the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
Go back to February 2017. When Bucs chairman Irvin Khoza presented Kjell Jonevret as their new coach, the football fraternity immediately started winding down the clock on the Swede’s tenure due to his unpopularity and precious few references.
And that fear came back to haunt the club as Jonevret was sacked after only six months in charge. This season alone, two European-born newbies on South African soil, Zlatko Krmpotic and Lionel Soccoia, were sacked before the halfway mark following under-achievements for Polokwane City and Black Leopards respectively.
So, how quickly can Zinnbauer turn things around at Pirates, who are seventh on the log 17 points behind leaders Kaizer Chiefs?
Time will tell but the Pirates job will test whether Zinnbauer can overcome the superstitions of European nationals who’ve invariably needed a second bite at the cherry in order to have a good or successful outing with the big two clubs from Soweto in recent years.
Micho Sredojevic, Zannbauer’s predecessor, had an impressive return to the club in the last two seasons, rescuing the Sea Robbers’ ship from flirting with relegation to back-to-back runners-up finishes in the league and a return to Caf Champions football.
Across town, Chiefs’ previous successes have come under returnees to South African football. In 2012, Stuart Baxter returned for a second stint here - having first coached Bafana Bafana in 2005 and 2006 - to join Chiefs whom he inspired to two league titles, the Nedbank Cup and MTN8 in just three seasons. Chiefs’ resurgence this season has come under Ernst Middendorp, lured back from Thailand for a second stint at the club having previously been at the helm between 2005-2007.
Amakhosi are on a roll in domestic football and are at the summit of the log standings with 34 points, 10 ahead of second placed SuperSport United, who’ve played a game more.
Football has proven to be unpredictable over and over again, so it would be naïve to jump the gun on Zinnbauer’s tenure at Bucs just yet. Assuming he gets his work permit before the last match of the year away to Black Leopards on December 21, he will need to quickly make an impact. That would bring a positive response from his players and the technical team, which includes Rhulani Mokwena, the former interim coach, who was demoted back to an assistant role after failing to steer the team out of troubled waters since the departure of Sredojevic in August.
Sure, Mokwena’s confidence may have taken a knock after that demotion but he knows that if the club which is so dear to his heart is to return to the pinnacle of SA football, there’s no time to sulk and moan. His value is to guide Zinnbauer going into the last lap of the season. The league title may be far-fetched but the upcoming Nedbank Cup could be a realistic chance of ending their five-year trophy drought.