COMMENT: Five players key to Orlando Pirates' chances of success

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With Orlando Pirates still in contention to win the PSL title and Nedbank Cup, these five players will key to their chances of success this season

SIYABONGA MPONTSHANE


The goalkeeper recently showed his quality during Bucs' 3-1 win over Kaizer Chiefs. The 31-year-old commanded the penalty area and he made crucial saves which helped the Buccaneers secure a much needed win over their Soweto rivals. 

Prior to the Soweto Derby, Jackson Mabokgwane was a regular in the Bucs starting line-up, but the shot-stopper has been inconsistent this season. The 30-year-old has not done enough to be the club's first-choice keeper hence he was dropped against Chiefs.

Mpontshane's experience, ability to command his area and also deal well with aerial balls gives him the edge over Mabokgwane. Furthermore, Mpontshane was one of the key players as Platinum Stars stunned the country by winning the Telkom Knockout Cup and MTN8 Cup in 2013.


HAPPY JELE


The experienced defender has been a pillar of strength for the Soweto giants since returning to the team's starting line-up this year. Jele did not feature regularly in the first round while attending court hearings after he was arrested for speeding.

The 31-year-old was sentenced to community service as part of his punishment  last December. Since his return, Bucs have won four their last five competitive games and they have managed to revive their hopes of winning this season's PSL title as they are placed second on the league standings - four points behind log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.

Jele, who was part of the double treble winning Pirates squad, has been able to form a commanding partnership with either Ntsikelelo Nyauza or Gladwin Shitolo at the heart of defence and he is the leader at the back for the Soweto giants. His experience could be key to Bucs' success this season.

Orlando Pirates key players


MUSA NYATAMA


The box-to-box midfielder walked straight into the Bucs starting line-up after joining the club from Bloemfontein Celtic last August and he has not looked back. Nyatama, who is blessed with superb passing ability, is operating as a deep-lying playmaker in Bucs central midfield.

The former Mamelodi Sundowns player has picked up several man of the match accolades for his outstanding performance for the Soweto giants this season. He is one of the players, who are flourishing under Bucs head coach Mulitin 'Micho' Sredojevic.

The 30-year-old was part of the Sundowns team that reached the Nedbank Cup and Telkom Knockout Cup finals in 2012 and his vision, and drive in the engine room will continue to be a factor for Bucs as they look to end their trophy drought this season.


LUVUYO MEMELA


The Cape Town-born midfielder has arguably been Pirates' best attacker this season having scored five goals which makes him the team's top goalscorer in the league and he could hit the back of the net more often if he becomes a consistent performer.

Memela tends to reserve his big moments for the big occasions. The 30-year-old inspired the Buccaneers to a victories over Gauteng giants Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs by scoring memorable goals this season, but he has often failed to replicate the same form against the so called 'small clubs'.

The Ajax Cape Town academy product's burgeoning relationship with Thembinkosi Lorch makes Pirates a dangerous side and there's no doubt that if Memela shrugs off his consistency, Bucs will stand a good chance of winning a major trophy this season.

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JUSTIN SHONGA


The 21-year-old, who joined the Buccaneers from Zambian Super League outfit Nkwazi FC last September, has slowly established himself as one the Soweto giants' key players having scored two goals in his last two league games. 

Shonga's work rate and goal contributions have caught the eye having formed a good understanding with fellow attackers Memela and Lorch, who have both benefited from the youngster's deadly runs and key passes in the final third. 

The mobile forward has been deployed as a lone striker because of his ability to move through the opposition's defence undetected into dangerous positions, while creating space for a scoring opportunity. Surely, Bucs will be celebrating a PSL title or Nedbank Cup win come May 2018 if Shonga can keep up his form by inspiring his side to important victories.

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