Rhulani Mokwena will have to do without his captain, Happy Jele for Orlando Pirates’ PSL match against Stellenbosch at Cape Town Stadium.

In Bucs’ 1-0 Telkom Knockout victory this past Saturday against the same opponents, Happy Jele collected his fourth yellow card of the season, ruling him out for one match due to suspension.

Jele absence will hurt Orlando Pirates

The 32-year old has played every minute of every match this season so far, and played in 40 of the side’s previous 41 PSL games, so his absence will come as a real blow.

In the last match, the captain was partnered with Ntsikelelo Nyauza in a back four and his absence could mean a recall for Alfred Ndengane in the middle of defence, whilst Innocent Maela – if fit to play – is another option in that role.

Carling Black Label Cup Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates Jele
Leonardo Castro of Kaizer Chiefs challenged by Alfred Ndengane of Orlando Pirates during the Absa Premiership match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates on the 09 February 2019 at FNB Stadium Pic Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates have had defensive issues all season in the PSL, conceding three goals to each of SuperSport United and Cape Town City and four against Bidvest Wits. The constant chopping and changing of goalkeepers has not helped matters, with Frenchman, Joris Delle conceding seven goals in two games.

His errors for Thabo Nodada’s long range goal – which went in over his head – and for Deon Hotto’s freekick where he moved behind his defensive wall, saw him dropped for Wayne Sandilands over the weekend. The latter kept a clean sheet but was barely troubled by a Stellenbosch side who rested top scorer, Waseem Isaacs and numerous other key players.

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Delle arrived at Pirates having been the third-choice goalkeeper for Feyenoord last season and it is not clear which member of the technical team or backroom staff recommended he be brought on board. In defence, Bucs did not sign any central defenders despite the departures of Brazilian, Caio Marcelo and Marshall Munetsi, who was sold to Reims in France.

The club recently took Kenyan centre back, Brian Onyango on trial after Maritzburg United released him at the end of last season, but indications are that he won’t be given a contract.

Mokwena backs his team’s ‘rest defence’

After Saturday’s game, Rhulani Mokwena told the assembled media that his side “were very good on rest defence” against Stellenbosch and that is clearly his biggest concern. ‘Rest defence’ is essentially the positioning and mentality of your defensive players when your team has the ball. It is crucial for the backline to already be anticipating the side losing possession.

That allows any counter attacks to be snuffed out, and when your rest defence is good, you can often win the ball again quickly and launch another attack, making it relentless for the opposition to defend. Losing Jele for Saturday’s game is a blow because Ndengane and Nyauza have never played together before and this may affect the side’s ability to stop the pace that Stellenbosch have on the break.

Mokwena will need to spend this week working with his new defensive pairing as he looks to improve a run of just one win in the last six league matches for Pirates, five of which he has been in charge of. 

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