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Bafana Bafana's Lepasa: Orlando Pirates fans must pray for safe return

9:27 AM EDT 9/26/22
Zakhele Lepasa, Bafana Bafana & Mohamed Kamara, Sierra Leone, September 2022
The 25-year-old is almost like a new signing for the Buccaneers, having played so little football over the past few years

Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana striker Zakhele Lepasa finally has the opportunity to cement his position for both club and country.

To date, Lepasa's career has been a stop-start one due to injuries and in four seasons he has played only 36 top flight matches (league and cup), plus three in the Caf Confederation Cup. In that time, he's made only 17 starts and has scored nine goals and created two assists.

Lepasa has also only played twice for Bafana Bafana, with more than a two-year interval between his two caps. The latest came last weekend in the 4-0 win over Sierra Leone and Lepasa showed both Pirates and Bafana fans exactly what they've been missing with an exhilarating performance which included two assists.

When in form and on fire, Lepasa really does at times look like international class as he mixes his sensational pace with sublime skill and touch.

He just never really gets any momentum going for long enough to live up to his potential.

After picking up a knock against Sierra Leone - he subsequently declared himself okay, Lepasa will now also be in the mix to play against Botswana in a friendly at the FNB Stadium on Tuesday.

While it would be great for him to get some more game-time and even get on the score-sheet, it might not be a bad idea for Bafana coach Hugo Broos to limit his time on the park to less than the full 90 minutes - in light of last weekend's knock, and keeping in mind his general fragile injury record.

Bucs fans will certainly be praying that Lepasa returns home safe and sound to Pirates and is able to take his place against Mamelodi Sundowns in an MTN8 quarter-final on Saturday.

Perhaps more than other positions, strikers need confidence and momentum and after the battles of the last few years, this feels now like it could be Lepasa's time.

The talent is there and the athleticism is unquestioned.

And in a Pirates side which has chopped and changed forwards over the last few years while unsuccessfully trying to find a leading marksman, Bucs development product Lepasa might just be the best bet.

With Lepasa hitting his stride, the recent signing of Kermit Erasmus, Evidence Makgopa still to make his debut (due to injury) and with Kwame Peprah and Bienevu Eva Nga also in the mix, the competition for places is increasing. For now though, it's Lepasa who has the inside lane and he needs to make the most of it.

After so many setbacks, the talented 25-year-old deserves his chance to show us what he's fully capable of.