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Bucs getting better

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“We work with the players every day, and we have individual talks. I don’t think (I am doing anything different) from other coaches in Africa, Europe or wherever”

Pirates Gabadinho Mhango battles for the ball with Mamelodi Sundowns Motjeka Madisha. Picture: Itumeleng English ANA

Coach Josef Zinnbauer doesn’t consider himself the “Special One”, saying the fact that Orlando Pirates are thriving under his stewardship is purely based on hard work and the fact that Lady Luck is finally smiling on the team.

In the last four matches, there’s been a storm of resurgence that’s been brewing at Pirates, after enduring turbulent times in the last six months following the sudden resignation of Micho Sredojevic.

Floated

After the Serbian-born coach left the team after two league games this season, his then-assistant Rhulani Mokwena held the fort on an interim basis. During his spell the Buccaneers fell from the dizzying heights of being title contenders to a team that floated in the bottom half of the log standings.

Early in December, the 34-year-old coach’s reign came to an abrupt end as the Pirates board officially replaced Sredojevic with the then-unknown German, Zinnbauer.

The latter has diligently gone about his business, though, bagging 10 points from a possible 12.

On Wednesday night, Zinnbauer’s troops brought the Kings of South African soccer, Mamelodi Sundowns, to their knees as they pulled off a famous 1-0 victory at Orlando Stadium.

This was Pirates’ first win over the Brazilians at home in nine years. In the bigger scheme of things though, Sundowns’ defeat ensured that log leaders Kaizer Chiefs consolidated their nine-point lead at the top.

But far from taking the credit for Pirates’ sterling end in 2019 and start in 2020, Zinnbauer says the togetherness in camp, hard-work and luck are the fuels behind the team’s resurrection so far.

“We work with the players every day, and we have individual talks. I don’t think (I am doing anything different) from other coaches in Africa, Europe or wherever,” he said.

“I have my philosophy. I speak with the players. Together, we make the training sessions, breakfast, lunch or dinner. I make things that other coaches make too.”

Zinnbauer continued: “The other coaches know the same things that I know, there’s nothing special. Maybe we have luck at the moment, I don’t know. But when you work hard, you get luck and then you get success. So, these are the things that I do. There’s normal feet, balls and shoes.”

Sure, the 49-year-old coach remains adamant he’s not had much influence on the sudden resurgence at the club, but there’s been an overwhelming feeling of confidence from the playing personnel in all three playing departments.

Against the Brazilians, Pirates kept their first clean in seven matches, while Fortune Makaringe’s showboating effort in the middle of the park in the second half didn’t ruffle any feathers for Zinnbauer, despite leaving Sundowns’ coach Pitso Mosimane agitated.

Up front, Gabadinho Mhango continued with his rich vein of form.

The Malawian’s 30th minute goal earned the home side all three points, while further increasing his tally to 11 goals this season.

“It’s not the first goal that we’ve scored (from such moves) but I think that the team has improved in the training sessions and they want new inputs,” Zinnbauer said.

“We have (Luvuyo) Memela (who assisted Mhango’s goal), he had a great game. He found a solution. I saw it in the TV replays. It was great passes between the lines, and it’s something that it’s not easy. He worked against the ball.

“I don’t know (how many goals) Mhango has scored now or what he drinks during the week. But he works hard and against the ball.”