Five things we learned as Orlando Pirates edged out Maritzburg United

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Bongani Sam, Orlando Pirates, January 2021
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The Buccaneers claimed a 1-0 win over the Team of Choice in a PSL match on Saturday. Here are five things that we learned from Bucs

  1. Jele-Hlatshwayo - The best partnership
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    Jele-Hlatshwayo - The best partnership

    Since Jele came on as a substitute against Black Leopards, Pirates are yet to concede and his central defensive partnership with Thulani Hlatshwayo has been rock-solid.

    The Buccaneers have kept two successive clean sheets, against Lamontville Golden Arrows and Maritzburg, as Jele enjoys regular game time in the absence of the injured Ntsikelelo Nyauza.

    Coach Josef Zinnbauer should stick with Hlatshwayo and Jele at the heart of the backline as a solid defence can be a key part for Pirates' push for the PSL title. 

  2. Bongani Sam - The real gem 
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    Bongani Sam - The real gem 

    The exciting left-sided player has been a breath of fresh in the Pirates team since he started against Arrows, with the Soweto giants in need of inspiration after their surprise defeat to Leopards.

    Sam was Pirates' best player on the pitch until he was substituted on the hour-mark and Zinnbauer later explained that the South Africa under-23 international was tired in what was his maiden start of the season in the league.

    The 23-year-old then produced an excellent performance against Maritzburg as he was a threat to the Team of Choice's defence which saw him grab an assist and also excelled at his defensive duties.

    He has raised his hand to indicate that he is ready to be Bucs' first-choice left-back. 

  3. Thabang Monare - Comes out his shell
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    Thabang Monare - Comes out his shell

    Eyebrows were raised when Pirates' reliable midfield general Ben Motshwari was named among the substitutes and Monare started alone in central midfield behind playmakers Fortune Makaringe and Azola Tshobeni.

    However, Monare bossed the midfield battle, was a key factor in winning the game against Maritzburg and he was deservedly named Man of the Match.

    Monare also impressed against Arrows and there is no doubt that the 31-year-old is finally coming out of his shell and his growing confidence is starting to show on the pitch. 

  4. Striker problem persists 
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    Striker problem persists 

    Frank Mhango was added to Pirates' injury list, joining fellow strikers Tshegofatso Mabasa and Zakhele Lepasa, and Zinnbauer opted not to include a centre forward in the starting line-up against Maritzburg.

    Versatile forward Terrence Dzvukamanja and out-and-out striker Jean-Marc Makusu were unused substitutes and Bucs were left ruing the lack of a clinical forward, with Thembinkosi Lorch in deployed upfront in a false nine position.

    Pirates enjoyed a lot of possession, but they could not convert it to clear-cut chances for Lorch, who was ineffective upfront and the Buccaneers have now scored just once in their last three matches. 

  5. Vincent Pule - Out of form and tired
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    Vincent Pule - Out of form and tired

    The left-footed genius remains one of Pirates' most important attackers, but he has failed to score or assist in his last seven matches across all competitions. 

    Against Maritzburg, Pule was simply not good enough as he gave away the ball too easily and constantly tried the hardest pass in what was his fifth start this year, with the games coming thick and fast.

    The Bafana Bafana international will probably get back to his best soon, but a couple of games out of the squad will give him a proper rest could do him a world of good.