Orlando Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer says with a team that has had a proper break and a full preseason‚ the club can challenge for the Premier Soccer League (PSL) title more convincingly in 2021-22.
In an injury-plagued 2020-21‚ a season compressed by the previous campaign running into September due to Covid-19‚ and where Bucs had a two-week preseason‚ Zinnbauer’s team ended a six-year trophy drought winning the MTN8. However‚ a combination bolstered by strong signings ended a disappointing third in the PSL.
Zinnbauer said a five-week preseason‚ his first proper one in his one-and-a-half years at the club‚ has had many advantages‚ including allowing time to integrate the signings‚ for team-building and to get some of Bucs’ still-walking wounded close to readiness.
“It’s a big thing as a coach that you have more weeks now. Important as well is that you have players on the pitch. This time we don’t have so many injured like last season‚” Zinnbauer said as Bucs wound up an intense preseason camp in Rustenburg this week.
“OK‚ right now we have four or five players out‚ like [Tshegofatso] Mabasa‚ [Zakhele] Lepasa‚ Happy [Jele]‚ [Terrence] Dzvukamanja and Vincent Pule. That’s a little bit disruptive but it’s much better than last season.
“We now have close to five weeks’ preparation‚ last season it was two. We can work on private talks — like now we have team-building sessions alone with the players‚ without coaches and with coaches.
“And that’s the next thing we can improve — how we can integrate the new signings in the team quickly.
“It’s not everything — we also have to work hard. It’s a bit of a different style than what we had last season and I’m really happy at how the team are working hard on that.”
Zinnbauer was then asked the magic question: if Bucs will be serious contenders for a much-coveted first league title since their double-trebles of 2010-11 and 2011-12.
“We have more time now. But you need players available‚” he said. “We have a good squad now. Yes‚ last season we were happy — the last six years we didn’t have a cup and we won a cup.
“We saw in the last few years that it’s not so easy. Last season we saw AmaZulu [finish second in the league].
“But it’s possible. Now we have a chance. Last season we had players who had not played a game in continental competition‚ like Caf. And now we have more experience.
“We have players who have adapted more to the system. As a coach‚ I’m the same — I have adapted more to the culture now.
“And I hope now that if we have the players on board — not like last season with injuries all season — we will have the right direction‚ build on the system we want.
“It’s not so easy but we are working on it. I’m 100% sure that if we have the players on the field we can win cups.”
Among interesting signings for Pirates are Goodman Mosele‚ Monnapule Saleng‚ Bandile Shandu and Kwanda Mngonyama.
Bucs meet Kaizer Chiefs in the preseason Black Label Cup at Orlando Stadium on Sunday.