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Pirates are ready to take on Sundowns

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Happy to lead from the front and uplift his dispirited teammates.

After the shuffling and changing of coaching personnel at Orlando Pirates took its toll on the players, captain Happy Jele admits he’s had to lead from the front and uplift his dispirited teammates.

It’s been an imbalanced six-month period for the Buccaneers players, who’ve had to go through a strenuous phase after the club changed their coaching personnel on three occasions.

Micho Sredojevic, who was with the club for the past two full seasons, prepared the team during pre-season but the Serbian-born coach only guided Pirates for the first two matches of the season – against Bloemfontein Celtic and SuperSport United – before resigning to join Egyptian giants Zamalek SC.

Enter Rhulani Mokwena. The 34-year-old turned from assistant to interim coach after the departure of Sredojevic, but the duty of steering the Sea Robbers’ ship proved to be too much of a task for him as he only collected 14 points from 11 matches.

The Pirates board obviously couldn’t take the humiliation any more, going as far as Germany, where they found Josef Zinnbauer, whose appointment was met with bemusement having been an unknown figure, who has an underwhelming track record.

Much to the detractors’ disappointment, the 49-year-old coach has gone about his business with aplomb – guiding his team to seven points out of nine in his first three matches.

However, it’s too early to say Pirates are out of the woods and they’ve found their knight in shining armour in Zinnbauer, but Jele is pleased with the recent change of fortune.

“My role is important in the team. it has been difficult, we lost one of the coaches (Sredojevic) and a new coach came and obviously we had to support him.

“So, so far so good. I am trying by all means to make sure that each and everyone in the team understands the coach.”

Pirates’ resurgence in recent weeks can be credited to the change of coaching personnel and lady luck finally smiling on the side.

Zinnbauer, who’s a fan of attacking football, appears to have got it spot on as his troops have been flourishing in front of goal, scoring eight times in three matches.

It has been Gabandinho Mhango who’s taken over the scoring responsibilities for his team with four goals in the last two matches as his 10-goal tally took him to the summit of the Premiership scoring charts.

“We didn’t do well in the previous games and as players we told ourselves that we need to improve – put a lot of effort. And in the previous four games we’ve been doing well,” Jele said.

“The new coach has also come in and we are trying to implement the style of play that he wants and he’s been good to (and for) us.”

After mopping the floor with Polokwane City with a 4-1 scoreline midweek, the Buccaneers will be hoping to pick up where they left off when they welcome champions Mamelodi Sundowns to their lair, Orlando Stadium, on Wednesday night.

The Brazilians, however, are high on confidence after recently qualifying for the knockout stage of the CAF Champions League.