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Fit Lorch can help Orlando Pirates finish second, says Ncikazi

Tiisetso Malepa Sports reporter
Orlando Pirates' Thembinkosi Lorch warms up ahead of the Caf Confederation Cup quarterfinal second leg match against Simba SC at Orlando Stadium on April 24 2022.
Orlando Pirates' Thembinkosi Lorch warms up ahead of the Caf Confederation Cup quarterfinal second leg match against Simba SC at Orlando Stadium on April 24 2022.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates’ injury woes have subsided, and the team will improve in their remaining five DStv Premiership matches of the season and a two-legged Caf Confederation Cup semifinal, says co-coach Mandla Ncikazi.

The Buccaneers enter a critical period that will define their 2021-22 season as a success or failure as they chase what appears to be an unlikely runners-up league finish and look to overcome Libyan side Al Ahli Tripoli in the home and away Confed semifinal.

Pirates, in fifth place in the Premiership on 39 points from 25 matches, face Chippa United at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday evening (5pm), looking for a win that will take them to third place.

Ncikazi said Bucs’ sick bay has cleared significantly and perfectly coincides with their hectic run-in to the end of the season as they eye a runners-up or third place league finish to qualify for the next editions of the Champions League or Confederation Cup.

“I always say t the Pirates you see now is not the same team that started the season,” Ncikazi said.

“There’s progress with players coming back from injuries and we’re improving in certain areas.”

Pirates have dearly missed influential attacking midfielder Thembinkosi Lorch, who missed almost the entire first half of the season due to injury.

Lorch, who gives Pirates the creative spark when he is fit and playing, has been limited to 17 appearances in all competitions and managed three goals. He played only his fourth full 90-minutes of the campaign in the Confed quarterfinal 4-3 penalty shoot-out win against Simba SC in Sunday's second leg at Orlando Stadium.

Lorch and substitute Kabelo Dlamini made Pirates tick against an ultra-defensive Simba as Bucs won 1-0  at home to make for a 1-1 aggregate score.

Ncikazi said such tactics are not new to Pirates as Premierships teams often apply defensive tactics against the Soweto giants, and the return of Lorch, playing in tandem in the No 10 role with Dlamini, can be the key to unlocking sides who sit back and wait to play on the counter.

“Playing against a low bloc is not easy. Ask any coach. Whether you go wide, other teams will play with six across the back and close the wide channels and you will have to play with No 10s in front.

“If they drop the line closer to the goalkeeper you have to be creative. That is why you see us bring a Lorch and a Dlamini, who give us more creativity in attack.

“With a  bit of belief and confidence in our No 10s, even in our PSL matches, we will improve but you must be mindful that most players are coming from injuries.

“It is the first game Lorch has finished for the longest of time. Given time I think we will improve.”

Pirates have to face relegation-threatened TS Galaxy and Maritzburg United after Chippa but it is likely to be their battles against SuperSport United and Royal AM that will determine if they achieve second or third place.

Ncikazi identified the game against second-placed Royal AM as critical but first up will be plucky Chippa.

“I understand it is important to fight and we can still finish in position two. We are going to play Royal AM and other teams near us are going to play each other. Let’s try to go as far as we can.”

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