Mandla Ncikazi may have risen in popularity last season in his first job as a senior team coach, but many believe that he is well equipped to become Orlando Pirates’ new mentor.
JOHANNESBURG – Phakama, Mandla Ncikazi, ixesha lifikile! (Stand up, Mandla Ncikazi, your time has come!)
That phrase must have gained momentum yesterday when Orlando Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer resigned, citing family reasons.
Early in December 2019, Pirates made the audacious decision of appointing Zinnbauer, who was an unknown figure in African football and had an underwhelming pedigree, to take over the reins from Milutin Sredojevic.
As expected, his appointment was met with jeers. But Zinnbauer appeared to turn his detractors into admirers, inspiring the team to a top three finish in the Premiership. A lot was expected from him in his first full season with the club last season.
Zinnbauer appeared to heed the call, inspiring the team to the MTN8 crown as they ended a six-year trophy drought. But a lack of consistency thereafter saw them fall short in the title race, Nedbank Cup and CAF Confederation Cup.
That didn’t go down well with supporters who wanted Zinnbauer to be shown the door ahead of the new season. But Pirates’ management stood by him during their pre-season preparations, albeit appointing Ncikazi as an assistant.
And to their disappointment, Zinnabuer started the new campaign on a sour note as Pirates crashed out of the MTN8 quarter-finals after a 2-1 defeat to Swallows FC at home on Saturday, while the petition for the German to be sacked once again gained momentum.
Yesterday, though, Zinnbauer, speaking on the club’s official website, stepped down, thanking management led by chairman Irvin Khoza, and “The Ghost” for the opportunity, while citing family reasons for his resignation.
“I would like to thank the chairman and management for the opportunity they have given me. Unfortunately, my time at the club has come to an end. I have enjoyed my time here,” the 51-year-old said in a statement.
“I would also like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the supporters. I have spent the last two years away from my family and for this reason, I have decided to hand in my resignation. I would like to wish the club and its supporters all the best.”
Pirates’ board, though, may not have to look far for Zinnbauer’s replacement. A large base of their fans were already of the opinion that Ncikazi should have replaced the former from the outset when he left Golden Arrows to join the Buccaneers.
Ncikazi had an impressive season with Arrows last season, inspiring them to a record fourth-place finish in the league, with limited resources as they had to mostly depend on academy players.
Ncikazi may have risen in popularity last season in his first job as a senior team coach, but many believe that he is well equipped to become Pirates’ new mentor.
After all, he has been an assistant to astute tacticians such as Maqoba Mnqgithi and Steve Komphela, who are now calling the shots at champions Mamelodi Sundowns, and has successfully worked with youngsters shows how much knowledge he has.
Ncikazi was Zinnbauer’s assistant alongside Fadlu Davids. The latter is also a renowned coach, having guided Maritzburg United to the 2018 Nedbank Cup final before joining Pirates early in 2019.