Bucs legend defends decision to give Hlatshwayo the armband on debut

Tyson a natural choice in Jele's absence, says Lekgwathi

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Tasherrq Morris of Cape Town City challenged by Thulani Hlatshwayo of Orlando Pirates.
Tasherrq Morris of Cape Town City challenged by Thulani Hlatshwayo of Orlando Pirates.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates’ decision to give newcomer Thulani "Tyson" Hlatshwayo the captain's armband in his debut game against Cape Town City in the MTN8 quarterfinals last Saturday at the expense of long-serving skipper Happy Jele, who was relegated to the bench, has divided opinions.

Following years of unsuccessful attempts to lure him over, Pirates finally secured Hlatshwayo’s signature at the end of last season, thanks to the demise of his former club Bidvest Wits.

Some feel it was too soon for the club to give Hlatshwayo the armband, while others think being the Bafana Bafana skipper automatically gives him the right to lead Pirates.

Arguably the Buccaneers’ most successful captain, having captained them to six trophies between 2010 and 2012 under Dutch mentor Ruud Krol, Lucky Lekgwathi sees nothing sinister about Hlatshwayo taking the armband, insisting this must only happen when Jele, who's been at the club for the past 14 years, isn’t on the pitch.

“For me if maybe Happy had started the game, yes I would have felt unhappy to see Hlatshwayo captaining the team. But Happy didn’t start, so I don’t see this as a big deal,’’ Lekgwathi told Sowetan yesterday.

The 44-year-old retired defender feels Pirates lack players who can share the leadership responsibility with Jele. Lekgwathi insinuated that Hlatshwayo must assist Jele in leading the team, making an example of players like Benni McCarthy, Moeneeb Josephs and Siyabonga Sangweni who helped him during his captaincy.

“Last season Jele was leading the team alone. You can’t lead alone. During my time I had players like Benni, Moeneeb and Sangweni who helped me lead,’’ said Lekgwathi.

“If you compare my generation with the current one, there’s a big difference. Today’s team have only Jele as a leader, so that’s why Hlatshwayo took the armband… there was no one to lead the team. Don’t forget that the boy [Hlatshwayo] is the Bafana Bafana captain.’’

Lekgwathi reckons the armband won’t have to rotate hands if Hlatshwayo can make sure the club continues to win, having opened with a victory. To support his argument, the Bucs legend made a reference of how he inherited the armband from Benson Mhlongo, who was injured at that time.

“If Hlatshwayo continues to win games, and maybe trophies, it will be hard to say the armband must return to Happy. It happens that you’re a captain and the team is winning games. It happened to me when Benson wasn’t there…we won games and trophies,’’ Lekgwathi stated.

Bucs coach Josef Zinnbauer defended giving Hlatshwayo the armband on debut by saying: “Happy Jele is normally the club captain and when Happy is not in the game then Tyson [Hlatshwayo] is the captain. Tyson is the national [team] captain."

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