Can he fill the shoes left empty at Orlando Pirates by Oupa Manyisa?
Thamsanqa Sangweni is a man whose move meandered through a stream of uncertainties, flowing at tortoise pace, so much so that it needed Chilli Boys boss Siviwe Mpengesi to actually fly down to Sangweni’s home in KwaZuluNatal to convince him to make the right decision. It had become an open secret, rumours swirling as far back as the end of last season, that the 28-year-old would move but the destination was encrypted. When he started training with Bidvest Wits at the end of June, it led to suggestions that he had chosen to take the “clever” route of joining the league champions. And after training at Braamfontein for a week, he was announced as a Buccaneer. “It took time and I can’t lie about this fact,” Sangweni says of the period preceding this peculiar move. “It even took so much time that the chairman of Chippa had to come [to my] home. He came to talk to me because it was off-season and he stays in Cape Town, while I was back home. So when he came all the way home to Richards Bay, we spoke about everything. We spoke about the decision that I had to take regarding me coming here [to Pirates]. I don’t really want to be revealing the finer details of all that we spoke about during that meeting but we spoke about a lot of things and at the end of the day I am here at Pirates now. “With him (Mpengesi) it had been some time that he had been talking about the prospect of this move but I had not made a definite decision as yet on whether to come here or not. So after we sat down, spoke at length, all became sorted in the end.”
Wits was one of the options
Sangweni had on the table. Kaizer Chiefs was mentioned as the other, while there was always a possibility of an overseas move engineered by his former coach Roger Palmgren also in the offing. For all the concerns that come with joining Pirates – especially at this stage with the Buccaneers uncharacteristically crumbling
– he believes he has all the reasons in the world to smile about his choice of club. Sangweni says: “I am happy with the choice I made. I am genuinely happy to be here at Pirates in all ways possible because even from the first day that I got here I was welcomed with open arms. I cannot be speaking about a lot of other things because what matters is that I am happy here.” As expected his older brother Siyabonga also had a role to play in not only advising his younger sibling but also holding his hand ahead of such a huge move. The older Sangweni is known for his wisdom and being firm – traits that the younger Sangweni will be expected to emulate despite pleading that there be no comparisons. “We speak a lot with bhut’ Siya and even the time when I came to sign, he is the person that accompanied me and was the one person that I was always talking to. He tells me about the things that happen internally at Pirates and all else that I need to do. My brother was here and he played well, so for me now that I am also now here, I need to open my own chapter. I am Thami Sangweni and not Siya Sangweni,” says Thamsanqa. With Manyisa now gone, Sangweni will immediately be looked upon to provide the brains in central midfield. Sangweni also admits that this move has career growth written all over it.
His case is bolstered by the fact
that he still needs to prove himself at a top club after a difficult spell with Mamelodi Sundowns, when he first made the big move to Gauteng from AmaZulu five years ago. The lack of game time at Sundowns forced him out to Ajax Cape Town and then Chippa. “Everyone wants to see career growth, so I believe this decision that I took of joining Pirates is slanting towards that direction of career growth. I am ready for the challenge and I really don’t want to be talking about Sundowns because I want my focus to be here at Pirates,” Sangweni declares.
Eight years into his professional
career, Sangweni neither has the trophies to show nor a pile of Bafana Bafana caps to his name. He is, however, keen to earn both trophies and national team honours in abundance during his time with Pirates, who themselves have been on a trophy drought. “Trophies? I always come second best,” he giggles. “But I hope that this time I will win something with my new club. What matters most is that the team wins matches and we get trophies together as a team. It is important that we become united. I honestly feel if we are working hard then we can achieve all our goals. As a player, I also want to win trophies with the clubs that I play for. All that I believe in right now is that this is the perfect time for me to win trophies, now that I am here at Pirates. “Being in the national team will be a bonus. My priority is getting to play here at Pirates, help the team to succeed and if I get the chance to play in the national team then so be it,” he says.
(Main) Thamsanqa Sangweni turning out for Pirates against Kaizer Chiefs in the Carling Black Label Cup.
(Below) Sangweni captaining Bafana against the Ivory Coast in Mbombela.