Makgopa pivotal to Pirates’ CAF hope

EVIDENCE Makgopa of Orlando Pirates during a DStv Premiership match. | BackpagePix

EVIDENCE Makgopa of Orlando Pirates during a DStv Premiership match. | BackpagePix

Published Mar 2, 2024


ALL EYES will be on Orlando Pirates striker Evidence Makgopa to lead the team’s attack against hosts Polokwane City in today’s DStv Premiership clash at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, Limpopo (kick-off 3.30pm).

Since his stellar performances for Bafana Bafana at Afcon, Makgopa has attracted a flurry of interest from far and wide. He hasn’t yet proved his status as a genuine match winner, but his game continues to thrive because of the morale-boosting encouragement from national team coach Hugo Broos.

Makgopa’s performance will be pivotal on two fronts. Pirates’ head honcho, Spaniard José Riveiro, has vowed his team in future will target maximum points in each game. Riveiro is also motivated to secure a place in next season’s continental competitions.

Polokwane’s rearguard will have their hands full in trying to contain Makgopa in the striking zone. Makgopa is a lively player with a penchant for off-the-ball play. His constant movement off the ball has resulted in opposition defences losing shape, and that creates opportunities for his fellow front runners.

“And after his performance in the Ivory Coast, I think nobody has doubts about his potential. But still, he’s 23, making his first steps into a big club like Pirates,” said Riveiro.

“He needs to know that there is an opportunity in the second half of the season to show that he can do much better.”

Riveiro said Makgopa’s transformation has come about primarily because of the confidence he enjoyed at Bafana.

“That’s the key, confidence. That’s probably the biggest change when you speak about Evidence,” said Riveiro.

“It’s about confidence. It was not easy for the boy. He went through a difficult period when he started to play for us continuously in the league.

“Sometimes the feedback he got from the stands was not fair, but he managed to navigate it. He has made the situation a strength and motivation for him to show his quality.

“There’s potential for more (sound performances). He is not feeling relaxed or feeling that he’s already got a permanent starting berth because the competition is still strong.

“So the best is still coming for him, I’m sure. He needs to keep that level of confidence and keep delivering for the team.”

At the other end, Polokwane has a two-prong threat that will also enjoy scrutiny and keep ‘Rise and Shine’ hopes of winning alive. Midfielder-cum-striker Oswin Appollis and Zimbabwe winger Douglas Mapfumo are a growing threat and Pirates’ defence will have a full day shift trying to contain them.

Appollis was impressive in his only Afcon appearance in Ivory Coast and since then has become a Kaizer Chiefs and Pirates transfer target. Broos rates him highly and looks at him as a future key player in the national team.

In their last outing, Polokwane lost to Richards Bay, but Polokwane interim coach Phuti Mohafe feels that lessons learnt in that match will stand them in good stead against Pirates.

“Against Richards Bay, we made a lot of passing errors in the wrong areas and conceded goals,” said Mohafe.

“We paid the price because we couldn’t deal with the two versus one situation, from the left side of their flank. Their first two goals came from that area.

“We came back to score from a set-piece. It was pound-for-pound in the second half as both sides wanted to win the match.

“I think we should have remained calm, held the ball better and rotated it better.”

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DStv Premiership