Fresh flesh for Pirates’ tired defence
Young player has what it takes
THERE is a breath of fresh air in the Orlando Pirates camp.
It is not new trainer Vladimir Vermezovic, but a 23-year-old from Matatiele in the Eastern Cape who has helped to slice down the average age of the Bucs defence, especially in a season where there’s plenty of tired legs.
Ntsikelelo Nyauza is no greenhorn in top-flight football, but his inclusion in Pirates’ lineup in six consecutive Absa Premiership matches, counting two Soweto derby debuts in a week against Moroka Swallows and arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs, has caught people’s attention.
His breakthrough came under Owen da Gama at Platinum Stars in February 2011.
Nyauza, whose parents died two years ago, looked set to kick his heels on the sidelines until mentor and former Mamelodi Sundowns great Harold “Jazzy Queen” Legodi convinced Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza to sign up the defender.
Legodi recruited a then 16year-old Nyauza to his Africa Sport Youth Development Academy.
It’s an ageing defence the Buccaneers have been relying on, with Lucky Lekgwathi turning 38 next season and Rooi Mahamutsa and Siyabonga Sangweni aged 32.
“I’d heard he was a decent player in a team that wasn’t so good, so I went to see for myself,” said Legodi.
“At some stage, I took him for trials at Pirates when [Ruud] Krol was there.
“But they couldn’t sign him because the registration was about to close and, obviously, he was still a risk. He’d never played professional soccer.
“Then Owen signed him at Platinum Stars, but played him as a central midfielder and used him a lot for a player that was meant to be assessed for six months.
“When Owen left, his chances were limited and I took him to the [National First Division side] Roses United, but there were too many issues there.”
For Legodi, there are many similarities between Nyauza and Pirates captain Lekgwathi, who remains a key member of the Buccaneers’ squad when many his age have long since retired.
Pirates have decided Nyauza should not make any public comments until he’s settled, but those who’ve seen him grow, speak and play are convinced of his humility.
Legodi said: “He will do well with Lekgwathi, Mahamutsa and [Happy] Jele there to guide him. He ’ s come in and immediately made an impact.
“He is committed and always gives his all.”
Da Gama, who used Nyauza in 24 matches over a season, admits that the defender had a reckless streak while with Dikwena and missed five games through a suspension. That’s changed.
“I think he has matured. Part of that aggressive nature was because he was an overzealous youngster who wanted to prove himself.
“But he is a good acquisition for Pirates – humble and not dirty.”
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