Orlando Pirates DStv Challenge coach Joseph Makhanya has explained why he fielded Relebohile Mofokeng and Azola Matrose when they trounced Golden Arrows 3-0 at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium on Saturday.
He said it was to build them up for the resumption of the season when the DStv Premiership opens next month after the Africa Cup of Nations.
Former Chippa United midfielder Matrose has been battling with injuries and he is yet to make his debut for Pirates after he was recalled from his loan stint with Chilli Boyz at the beginning of this season.
Out of the two, Mofokeng appeared to be enjoying himself against Arrows, and rewarded Makhanya with a deft goal, curling it home in the referee’s optional time in the first half, as Pirates extended their lead at the top of the DStv Diski Challenge table to 32 points after 14 matches, three ahead of second-placed Stellenbosch FC.
“Us bringing in Rele it was simply to make sure that when the first team reopens, he is ready, he is sharp,” said Makhanya.
“Azola Matrose was away for two years, so we are trying to build him up so that when we hand him over to coach Jose Riveiro, he is ready to play.
“He is still scared because he had an operation on his ankle, so we want him to get used to playing again. When can he get minutes? It’s here in the DDC. It was created specifically for those types of situations.”
Pirates, being on top of the table in the DStv Diski Challenge this early in the campaign, has been a familiar feature. But when it comes to the finish line, they lose their grip around round number 25 of the league.
It was the case last season when they lost the grip at a vital moment as SuperSport United won the junior league.
SuperSport, knowing it was in their hands to win, brought in Thapelo Maseko, now at Mamelodi Sundowns, to ensure they got over the line along with Shandre Campbell.
Makhanya, who is in his second season with Pirates, didn’t mince his words about what he wants to achieve at the end of the season.
“This is Pirates. If mentally you are not strong, then it is a problem,” said Makhanya, whose side thumped Sundowns 4-1 at Tsakane Stadium last weekend.
“That is one thing we want to work on and try and drill it to the players. I think if we are focused and pay attention and leave the log standing because, at the end of the day, we are in control of our results.
“We are in the driver’s seat; we are the pilots and now the plane must land at Houghton, which is something we want to do this season. We will treat every game with the right intention and treat it like a cup final.”