Makhaula signing shows exactly where Orlando Pirates are at right now

Makhehleni Makhaula, AmaZuluBackpage

Despite faint rumours of unlikely deadline-day moves for Mamelodi Sundowns duo Andile Jali and Lesedi Kapinga, it was largely a quiet end to the window for PSL giants Orlando Pirates.

Forward Zakhele Lepasa departed for SuperSport United, where he’ll get the opportunity to work under Gavin Hunt and prove he can still be a success story at Pirates, although largely, the Buccaneers got their business done earlier in the window.

Craig Martin, Ndumiso Mabena and, of course, Cameroon’s Souaibou Marou have all been added to the squad, but the arrival that Pirates fans got most excited about on deadline day was the arrival of Makhehlene Makhaula from AmaZulu.

He’s an able competitor, and has something to offer Pirates, that’s for sure, but his arrival—and the way it was greeted by supporters—is evidence of just how far Bucs have fallen at the moment.

Pirates are currently fourth in the PSL table, a whopping 24 points behind league leaders Mamelodi Sundowns, and no real threat to the Brazilians, who they face this weekend.

Tshepo Mabua of Richards Bay celebrates a goal with his teammates, January 2023Backpagepix

Worse than this, they’re currently behind minnows Richards Bay—unlikely Caf Champions League contenders in second place—and SSU, who currently occupy third, one point ahead of Pirates.

For a club of their size, scale and prestige, it simply isn’t good enough that they’re out of the title race before the end of January, let alone that they find themselves chasing a club of the clout of the Natal Rich Boyz, who were only founded in 2017.

If Pirates had any real ambition, or any tangible hunger to reassert themselves as a domestic—or even continental—giant, they surely needed to pull out the stops and give Jose Riveiro some resources to help him restore Pirates to the pinnacle of the PSL.

Signing Makhaula, who will turn 34 later this year, is a move that smacks of desperation and short-term planning.

The midfielder, who will offer tenacity and competitiveness, could have been a great asset three years ago, when he left HighlandsPark and still had some of his peak years ahead of him, but now 33, his best years are surely behind him.

Pirates signing a veteran, from a team who have won once since November, suggests a lack of ambition and long-term planning from the Bucs staff.

Makhaula will now eat up playing time from some of the Pirates midfielders who need gametime and will leave someone like Miguel Timm, Ben Motshwari, Goodman Mosele and Thabang Monare watching on from the outside.

Could it even leave the cautious Riveiro yet more reticent to play Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo, who surely needs to be given more playing time in the top flight.

Pirates fans seemed happy to have brought Makhaula on board, and he will be a useful addition for them, but he’s hardly the kind of talent to help Pirates close the gap to Sundowns, and unlike Kaizer Chiefs new boy Christian Saile Basomboli, won’t represent a long-term investment who could set the pulses racing in the short-term.

Instead, it seems like an unambitious, unimaginative, short-term move from a club who have a fight on their hands to finish in the top two.

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