Will Mandla Ncikazi and Fadlu Davids power into Orlando Pirates throne?
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JOHANNESBURG - MANDLA Ncikazi’s name means “power”. And Fadlu Davids’s surname is the name of one of the most powerful kings in biblical history – David.
Orlando Pirates’ opening league match against Stellenbosch FC will probably serve as a platform to audition the ability of the two caretaker coaches following the resignation of head coach Josef Zinnbauer on Monday afternoon.
After a season filled with trials and tribulations, Zinnbauer abruptly quit his job. His resignation followed his team’s failure to defend the MTN8 crown – they were knocked out of the quarter-final by Swallows.
Now there are new men in charge: Ncikazi and Davids. The latter said during the DStv Premiership launch on Wednesday that they are equals as they’ve been assigned by management to steer the Sea Robbers to victory against Stellies at home this afternoon.
Davids has been at Pirates for almost three years, having been an assistant to Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic, Rhulani Mokwena and Zinnbauer. That has made him a senior to Ncikazi who arrived in the off-season from Durban side Golden Arrows.
But it’s the latter who’s been tipped for the vacant post. Ncikazi is no high profile coach but after he guided Arrows to fourth on the standings last season, many in the football fraternity took note of his achievement.
Ncikazi appears to have had a hand in the recruitment of one of his proteges from Arrows after Bucs confirmed the signing of midfielder Ntsako Makhubela yesterday. Will Makhubela have a place in the Pirates midfield that already appears congested?
The 27-year-old offers more to the attacking department, given that he’s quick and has an eye for goal. Striker Gabadinho Mhango lacked supply in the past, and Makhubela could change that.
Ncikazi and Davids will know that it might take a while before Makhubela finds his feet at the club, and that’s why players such as Thembinkosi Lorch, Deon Hotto and Vincent Pule have to come to the fore up front and supply their strikers.
Pirates’ defence has to plug their holes as well. Goalkeeper Richard Ofori cost them against Swallows. And just like Ruzaigh Gamildien pounced on Ofori’s mistake, Stellies’ new striker Judas Moseamedi will also look out for such errors.
Stellies nearly got the chop last term after finishing 14th on the standings.
In another match today, Ncikazi’s successor at Arrows, Lehlohonolo Seema, will know that his work is cut out for him, despite beating 2019 MTN8 champions SuperSport United in the lottery of a penalty shootout in this season’s quarter-final last weekend.
Seema says his troops know that they can’t afford to drop their guard when they welcome neighbours Maritzburg United at the Princess Magogo Stadium this afternoon. Bagging their first three points of the season will be a psychological boost. How they start might set a tone for the rest of their campaign.
The Team of Choice under the astute leadership of Ernst Middendorp will know the danger posed by Knox Mutizwa and Pule Mmodi, and that’s why goalkeeper Marcel Engelhardt and his defence have to be solid.
Derby action will continue this afternoon, in Polokwane where Baroka FC and newly renamed side Marumo Gallants will face off. The former will feel that they can improve on last term’s ninth-place finish.
A side that’s got a lot to improve on is SuperSport. After a relatively quiet transfer window, the Tshwane giants kept the bulk of their players, including top goalscorer Bradley Grobler.
Their opponents Cape Town City will know them too well. The Citizens are coached by Kaitano Tembo’s predecessor Eric Tinkler. Tinkler says they’ll need to grind out a result even if that means playing ugly football. That’s why the likes of Surprise Ralani will be key going forward.