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Is Orlando Pirates coach Zinnbauer losing the dressing room?

16:07 SAST 2021/05/12
Josef Zinnbauer, Orlando Pirates, December 2019
It was five months ago, in December last year, that the Buccaneers ended a six-year wait for a trophy by winning the top eight competition

It seems a long time ago now that Orlando Pirates fans celebrated the club winning the MTN8 trophy by beating Bloemfontein Celtic in the final.

Certainly at that stage, Bucs looked ready to kick on and put in a title challenge.

But that’s not the way things have unravelled; just five months after that trophy win, there seems an unease in the Pirates camp and Tuesday night’s 0-0 stalemate against Stellenbosch FC should be of great concern to head coach Josef Zinnbauer.

It wasn’t the result that was the main issue, but the lackluster and times aimless performance – it had many of the makings of a team that are no longer fighting for their coach.

Of course professionals should always be giving their all for the club badge, but when things go wrong, the buck generally stops with the head coach.

Communication gap?

Quite recently midfielder Thabang Monare posted a video of himself in bed, speaking about the struggle to understand Zinnbauer’s somewhat broken English. He also poked fun at fellow midfielder Ben Motshwari’s inability to comprehend all the German’s instructions.

And while Monare’s video was meant in jest, it does bring up an important point – if Zinnbauer is unable to clearly express himself, then his job is going to be harder. All the more so when results are not going the right way.

And it’s not just Monare who has brought up the issue, it’s been mentioned on fans’ forums too and it’s clear when listening to Zinnbauer speak that his grasp of English is not great. When it comes to complex, technical instructions, that can be a problem.

Injuries an excuse?

A long-term injury to Thembinkosi Lorch has not helped. Gabadinho Mhango, Tshegofatso Mabasa and Zakhele Lepasa have also been sidelined.

Pirates though have a big squad and have brought in a lot of players in the past couple of transfer windows.

There have also been question marks over Zinnbauer’s constant chopping and changing of his team, and the fact that Happy Jele was stripped of the captain’s armband – which was given to the newly-signed Thulani Hlatshwayo, probably didn’t help either.

African redemption?

With two wins in their last six league matches, Pirates’ chances of reeling in Mamelodi Sundowns - who themselves had gone through a small patch of poor results - have come and gone.

The Sea Robbers are, however, still in the Caf Confederation Cup and are set to play Raja Casablanca in a two-legged quarter-final.

Should Bucs get through to the final or even win the competition, Zinnbauer will surely have earned himself another season at the club. But if Pirates limp out of the continental tournament as well, the pressure will ramp up further on the head coach.