Best Or­lando Pi­rates XI

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The Buc­ca­neers are among the most suc­cess­ful clubs in South African foot­ball history, but what would be their great­est ever XI?

In or­der to se­lect the truest, or cor­rect, Or­lando Pi­rates’ best-ever XI, you would need to have been born roughly a cen­tury ago and still go­ing strong. Old enough to have watched Pi­rates in their for­ma­tive days be­fore World War II, through the un­struc­tured but heady 50s, onto the old South African Soc­cer League in the early 60s and then the birth of black pro­fes­sional soc­cer with the launch of the Na­tional Pro­fes­sional Soc­cer League in 1971. Plus, you will have needed to have been around to see the club barely man­ag­ing to avoid rel­e­ga­tion in the late 80s be­fore bounc­ing back to be crowned African cham­pi­ons in the mid-90s. No such per­son ex­ists, un­for­tu­nately, so in select­ing a best-ever Pi­rates line-up some play­ers are judged on first-hand knowl­edge, oth­ers on rep­u­ta­tion. It is im­por­tant to point out, how­ever, that struc­tured soc­cer ex­ists only for the last 50 years of Pi­rates history, ef­fec­tively di­min­ish­ing the cal­i­bre of the foot­ball they played for their first three decades. But the tales of the ex­ploits of the key play­ers of those days have en­dured through the ages. This team is se­lected by KICK OFF’s Mark Glee­son with a mod­ern tac­ti­cal line-up, which sees four across the back, a de­fen­sive hold­ing mid­fielder and two cre­ative men in the mid­dle in a nod to the past eras where struc­ture was a lot looser and flair could flour­ish. There is also one wide player plus two strik­ers.


PAT­SON BANDA would never be pic­tured in a man­ual or held up as an ex­am­ple of the cor­rect and proper way to keep goal. But his nat­u­ral flair, foot­balling charisma and over­sized per­son­al­ity make him, with­out doubt, the great­est to ever ap­pear be­tween the sticks for the Buc­ca­neers. He was a can­di­date for Foot­baller of the Year on sev­eral oc­ca­sions and a key mem­ber of Pi­rates’ league suc­cess in the old NPSL in the 1970s; he had a fiery per­son­al­ity, who of­ten got on the wrong side of ref­er­ees and ad­min­is­tra­tors, but the fans adored him for his fly­ing save and cheeky an­tics. He joined in 1971 from Or­lando High­landers and stayed for over a decade, also mak­ing the South African rep­re­sen­ta­tive sides along the way. Wil­liams Ok­para, who played more than 300 games for Pi­rates, would be sec­ond choice in an ac­knowl­edge­ment of his longevity and con­sis­tency, while the likes of Mandy ‘All die Hoekies’ Davids, In­no­cent May­oyo, Moe­neeb Josephs and Senzo Meyiwa kept up the Pi­rates’ tra­di­tion of hav­ing a ‘crazy man’ be­tween the poles. Pi­rates’ most in­fa­mous goal­keeper was Swazi­land’s Richard Lukhele, who burst into tears after con­ced­ing the fourth goal in a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat to new­com­ers Black­pool in the 1989. He has to be coaxed back onto the pitch by team-mate Mandla Sit­hole after walk­ing off and was dubbed ‘the cry­ing goal­keeper’ by the next day’s news­pa­pers.

Right Back


KHOMANE was a model of con­sis­tency through his long stay with the Sea Rob­bers, the con­sum­mate club­man who was later also a val­ued mem­ber of the tech­ni­cal staff, even serv­ing as act­ing coach when needed. He was known ei­ther as ‘Yster’ or ‘Skip­per’, the two nick­names telling of his tough-as­nail de­fend­ing, haunt­ing many a winger who tried to get past him, but also of the re­spect and af­fec­tion he en­joyed at the club. Khomane was se­lected for the South African team to play Rhode­sia in 1978 (a match later can­celled and the tour­ing Por­tuguese XI the next year be­fore head­ing off in 1980 for a brief so­journ in the United States with At­lanta Chiefs. He was even care­taker coach along with Ge­orge ‘Brains’ Mchunu when Wal­ter da Silva was fired in 1981 and only fin­ish­ing his play­ing days in 1986. In the right back po­si­tion in later years, Lucky Lekg­wathi would also prove him­self as a gen­uine club man after com­ing down from Lim­popo to join Pi­rates but he also spent some of his play­ing time in the cen­tre of de­fence, par­tic­u­larly to­wards the end of his ca­reer.

Left Back

ED­WARD MOTALE only spent three years at Pi­rates but in that time the team won the league, the African Cham­pi­ons Cup, the African Su­per Cup, the BoB Save Su­per Bowl and the Top Eight Cup. There was no other left back who had

as suc­cess­ful a spell with the team and although other can­di­dates could point to a longer time with Pi­rates, none helped amass as much sil­ver­ware in as lit­tle time. Motale was also a back-up mem­ber of Bafana Bafana squad who won the 1996 Africa Cup of Na­tions. Off the field, Motale was a mis­chievous and gre­gar­i­ous per­son­al­ity while only the field he played with a steely de­ter­mi­na­tion, damned if he was go­ing to let any other striker get the bet­ter of him. The 1995 gen­er­a­tion handed Pi­rates, with­out doubt, their finest hour – beat­ing ASEC Abid­jan in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal over two legs and se­cur­ing the ti­tle away after be­ing held to a calami­tous draw at home. That feat has yet to be sur­passed and, so, sev­eral mem­bers of that squad do fea­ture, per­haps dis­pro­por­tion­ately, on the list of the club’s best-ever play­ers.


This is the depart­ment where Pi­rates had the most riches over the decades and where the choice is tough. In the end the se­lec­tion is made, not only on the in­di­vid­ual abil­ity, the prow­ess and suc­cess, but also the longevity of the

player. WEB­STER LICHABA and EPHRAIM MASHABA are also picked for their abil­ity to slot into other po­si­tions, as they showed through their sto­ried ca­reers.

Mashaba was a hot head right from the start as his many runins with the police, courts and foot­ball ad­min­is­tra­tors at­tests to. This con­tin­ued into his coach­ing ca­reer and cul­mi­nated with his fir­ing as Bafana coach just be­fore Christ­mas in 2016. He joined Pi­rates from Pre­ston Broth­ers in 1972, on the eve of the Top Eight Cup fi­nal against arch ri­vals Kaizer Chiefs. Within a year, he was a mem­ber of the SA Black XI and then in 1974 in­cluded in the first-ever mixed na­tional team, which played an Ar­gen­tine Uni­ver­si­ties team. Mashaba could also play up­front and knew his way to goal. On their way to winning the dou­ble in 1975, Mashaba scored five goals in one game against Man­guang United. Lichaba joined the club in mid1974, spend­ing sev­eral years in the same line-up with Mashaba, who later went off to play at Swaraj in the Fed­er­a­tion Pro­fes­sional League and then car­ried on his ca­reer at Moroka Swal­lows. Lichaba scored the ex­tra time cup fi­nal win­ner against Chiefs in 1975 and also de­vel­oped the abil­ity to play as a makeshift striker and score goals. Lichaba left the club for a stint in the USA, at At­lanta Chiefs along with Khomane and Jomo Sono. It was joked then that they should have re­named the Amer­i­can club ‘At­lanta Pi­rates’ but came back and con­tin­ued with Bucs, mostly as cap­tain, un­til 1984 when he joined Sono at Jomo Cos­mos. Pi­rates spent R25,000 to re­place him, splash­ing out on Nick Sesh­weni from Wit­bank Black Aces, who would also be­come a club icon. He is among the many other cen­tre backs who could have made the fi­nal se­lec­tion, like Mark

Fish, Happy Jele, Gavin

Lane, Stu­art Lil­ley, Mbulelo Mabizela, Dan Male­sela and

Mil­ton Nkosi.

De­fen­sive Mid­field­ers

JOHN MOETI was so small some­times he was hardly no­ticed but there can be few who have worn the Pi­rates jersey and played with more com­mit­ment or had as high a work rate. His stature per­haps cost him wider ac­claim but Moeti was the en­gine room of 1995 African cham­pi­ons and ran Brazil ragged in the first half of the fa­ble friendly in 1996 when Bafana led 2-0 at half-time but ended up los­ing at Soc­cer City. He played in the African Cup of Na­tions fi­nal against Egypt in 1998 and was a squad mem­ber in 1996 when South Africa won the com­pe­ti­tion, but a bro­ken an­kle ruled him out of the World Cup fi­nals in France where he was sorely missed. At Pi­rates, he won all of South Africa’s do­mes­tic league prizes … the league, the Bob Save Su­per Bowl, the JPS Knock­out Cup and the BP Top Eight Cup … but sadly left the club on a sour note after a con­trac­tual dis­pute. That ex­pe­ri­ence fu­elled his de­sire to cre­ate the play­ers’ union. Andile Jali played in a sim­i­lar style many years later and served the club with aplomb. Other great de­fen­sive mid­field­ers were Sesh­weni, Andy Karacin­ski (who had sev­eral dif­fer­ent po­si­tions dur­ing his time with the team) and James ‘Hitler’ Sobi, in whose day the po­si­tion was termed ‘half back’.


Now the depart­ment where the real crème was con­joured and where some of the great South African play­ers plied their trade. None bet­ter than PERCY MOLOI and JOMO SONO, two play­ers whose ca­reers over­lapped when one was just come to the end and the other be­gin­ning. ‘Chippa’ Moloi was al­ready head­ing to­wards the end of his ca­reer when the ad­vent of reg­u­lar league com­pe­ti­tion ar­rived, deny­ing him a chance for wider glory. He was a gifted ge­nius who en­thralled the soc­cer scene in the 1960s, to­gether with Kaizer Mo­taung and Rashad Khan. At the time of the break­away that led to the for­ma­tion of Chiefs, Pi­rates had as­sem­bled one of their golden teams and had there been a proper league would surely have dom­i­nated. As it was, Moloi was not pleased with the bel­liger­ence that of­fi­cials showed when they were hounded out Ew­ert Nene and co­horts from

the club. But Moloi, the father of Te­beho Moloi, did go onto be­come scorer of the first-ever derby goal against Chiefs in 1970. Sono’s fam­ily con­nec­tion with the club come from his father, who is also in our best Pi­rates’ XI. He was just 18 when he made his de­but, scor­ing twice as Pi­rates beat Kag­iso Hot­beans 7-3 in a friendly match at Kag­iso. The goals kept on flood­ing in after that as Sono de­vel­oped his con­fi­dence, skills and be­came a crowd favourite. He is now re­garded among the coun­try’s all-time greats, an au­to­matic pick for the first South African XI and al­ways in the hunt for the Foot­baller of the Year award and top scorer un­til he went off to the North Amer­i­can Soc­cer League. Pi­rates en­joyed the ser­vices of many qual­ity mid­field­ers with Bernard Hartze, Ernest Makhanya, Teko Modise, Kaizer Mo­taung, Thabo Mn­gomeni and Bene­dict Vi­lakazi all do­ing the Buc­ca­neers’ jersey great ser­vice.

Wide At­tacker

HELMAN MKHALELE was an­other key mem­ber of the Pi­rates team that won the 1995 African Cham­pi­ons Cup, and one of many who took the route to the club from Jomo Cos­mos. His abil­ity to de­liver a cross might have been sub stan­dard but for pure pace, ex­cit­ing drive and abil­ity to take on de­fend­ers, ‘Mid­night Ex­press’ had few equals and, time after time, proved his worth to the club. He was also a vi­tal mem­ber of the South African side that won the 1996 Africa Cup of Na­tions ti­tle and qual­i­fied for the World Cup in France two years later. He also played more African club com­pe­ti­tion games than any other South African foot­baller be­fore be­ing over­taken by the cur­rent Mamelodi Sun­downs gen­er­a­tion. Pi­rates had some ex­cit­ing drib­blers in their day, notably Elias ‘Shuf­fle’ Mokopane. There must also be sig­nif­i­cant re­gret that Al­bert ‘Bashin’ Mahlangu took so long to blossom and was al­ready in his 30s when he started to make an im­pact. But what an im­pact it was!


ERIC ‘SCARA’ SONO died trag­i­cally young, in a car ac­ci­dent in 1964, but still did enough to cre­ate a legacy and also be­gin a dy­nasty. He joined Pi­rates to help pay school fees and sup­port his blind father, and in his heydey as a player still had to work as a mes­sen­ger for an in­surance com­pany. He ac­tu­ally pre­ferred box­ing to foot­ball but his prow­ess on the field made him the best player of the 1950s and 60s. Son Jomo was said to be an ex­act replica of his father, although ‘Scara’ started out as a left wing, where he made his de­but in 1954. He was cap­tain in 1958 when Pi­rates cleaned up and firmly es­tab­lished them­selves as the coun­try’s top team and con­tin­ued to be the most pop­u­lar player un­til the car in which he and two oth­ers were trav­el­ling over­turned while ap­proach­ing a bend near Vre­de­fort in the Free State. To play along­side him, there are many fine can­di­dates but in the end JERRY SIKHOSANA gets the nod ahead of Al­fred ‘Rus­sia’ Ja­cobs, Her­bert Leroke and Mc­Don­ald Skosana. He was an in­fu­ri­at­ing player who drib­bled need­lessly and there­fore was not as pro­fi­cient in front of goal as he should have been, but you can­not take away the fact he is the au­thor of the goal that won Pi­rates the Cham­pi­ons Cup plus scored a derby hat­trick. Those are both are mas­sive claims to fame which can­not be ig­nored and there­fore pits him ahead of a list that should also in­clude Keith Broad and Basil Steenkamp.

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