Orlando Pirates’ selection headache: Can Lepasa keep his place?

Zakhele Lepasa of Orlando Pirates, July 2019
The youngster has taken the chance afforded to him by injuries to his fellow strikers, but now has a challenge to stay in the Sea Robbers starting XI

Suddenly, Orlando Pirates head coach Josef Zinnbauer finds himself with a whole lot more options in the striking department.

This follows the return to fitness of last season’s league top goal scorer, Gabadinho Mhango. Mhango is potentially in line for a place in the squad against Baroka FC in Orlando on Saturday.

Also back from injury is Tshegofatso Mabasa, who came off the bench to score the winner against SuperSport United last weekend.

Mabasa made a blistering start to his Pirates career last season after signing from Bloemfontein Celtic but then faded as injuries held him back.

Then there is also the club’s latest signing, DR Congo forward Jean-Marc Makusu, who will be itching to make an impact for the Sea Robbers.

So where does this leave Lepasa, who at the start of the season, would probably have been last in the pecking order?

He will surely start against Baroka, as Mhango and Mabasa make their way back to full fitness. But he will now be under more pressure to perform knowing his place is directly under threat.

To his credit, though, the 23-year-old has already shown in his fledgeling career that he’s one for the big occasion. He kick-started his scoring campaign this season with a lovely goal in an MTN8 semi-final win over arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs.

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He then stepped up very coolly on Saturday against SuperSport to clinically convert a pressure penalty to put Bucs back on level terms. And let’s not forget it was his 90th-minute penalty for TS Galaxy, then a second-tier club, which clinched the 2019 Nedbank Cup final against Kaizer Chiefs – pressure doesn’t come much bigger than that.

Mabasa, like Lepasa, is hungry to make his mark with the Soweto giants - and the likes of Mhango and Makusu are going to have to work hard to claim a starting place.

“We will always keep on working for the club, we both grew up supporting this club and we are very young and ambitious youngsters. So, this is just the beginning of greater things to come,”  Mabasa was quoted saying by the Citizen.