Fresh flesh for Pi­rates’ tired de­fence

Young player has what it takes

Sunday World - - World Of Sport - MA­ZOLA MOLEFE

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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