Bucs look to Makhaula-Mbatha magic to floor Downs

Makhehleni makes case for talented Thalente as Cup final looms

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Orlando Pirates players in training during the media open day at Orlando Stadium yesterday.
Orlando Pirates players in training during the media open day at Orlando Stadium yesterday.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi

Orlando Pirates midfield workhorse Makhehleni Makhaula has narrated why his promising midfield partnership with newcomer Thalente Mbatha hardly had teething problems.

Makhaula and Mbatha emerged as Pirates' key players in the second round of the season, stabilising the engine room. Mbatha only joined Pirates on loan from SuperSport United in January, while Makhaula has been at the club since January 2023. Makhaula and Mbatha are odds-on to anchor the Bucs' engine room again against Mamelodi Sundowns in the Nedbank Cup final at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday (3pm).

"I played with Thalente at Highlands Park. The telepathy between us comes a long way. He's a boy that I groomed when he was playing for Highlands [reserve] team. Whenever he trained with the first team, I used to advise him and tell him where to improve,'' Makhaula said during a media open-day at Orlando Stadium yesterday.

"When Highlands were sold [to Tim Sukazi in 2020] we went our separate ways but we always kept in contact and made sure the communication didn't die. Now we are reaping the reward of knowing each other for a long time. When we reunited here at Pirates and it was easy for us to work together again."

The 34-year-old Makhaula, who skippered AmaZulu before his Pirates switch, has also tipped Mbatha to become one of the best players in SA. Mbatha, 24, has a goal and two assists from 15 games he's played for Pirates so far.

"He's going to be one of the biggest talents in SA, especially if he keeps working hard. He's always willing to learn and that helps him a lot. He's never scared to ask where he must improve,'' Makhaula said.

Makhaula is determined to help Pirates defend the Nedbank Cup as he wants a third career medal, having won the same competition with Free State Stars in 2018.

"This cup final means a lot to me because if we win, it would be my third medal. This game is one of the biggest games in the SA football calendar.''

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