Craving success in the CAF Champions League: Patrick Maswanganyi, Tshegofatso Mabasa, Relebohile Mofokeng, Thabiso Lebitso, and their fellow teammates are ready to propel Orlando Pirates towards continental greatness

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Fueled by aspirations of clinching a spot in the upcoming CAF Champions League, the Buccaneers will lean on their key performers to drive them onward.

With just seven matches left in the Premier Soccer League season, Orlando Pirates’ dreams of continental glory teeter on the brink, plagued by inconsistency with six losses, seven draws, and ten victories out of 23 matches thus far.

Following a turbulent restart after the Africa Cup of Nations break, the Sea Robbers initially faltered but have since surged back into the top half of the league table under Jose Riveiro’s guidance. They now aim for a potential second-place finish in the 2023/24 season.

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Meet ‘Tito’, the midfield maestro.

When Patrick Maswanganyi’s name reverberates among the faithful of the Buccaneers, it sparks undeniable excitement, owing to his ongoing brilliance in the midfield for Pirates.

Maswanganyi has emerged as a pivotal force in steering his team towards a potential second-place finish, boasting an impressive six PSL Man of the Match awards, leading the league in this accolade for the current season. Furthermore, the adept playmaker has notched up four goals and provided three assists in the league. Even when he isn’t directly involved in scoring, Maswanganyi consistently crafts opportunities for his teammates.

Remarkably, amidst his escalating acclaim at Pirates, Maswanganyi has remained steadfastly committed to his responsibilities, showcasing the traits of a consummate professional and embodying the type of player Pirates rely on in their starting lineup.


The scorching striker.



Since his return to the Pirates fold, Tshegofatso Mabasa has finally proven his value after initially joining the club in 2019. Despite enduring loan spells and limited chances to showcase his abilities, Mabasa seized the opportunity to reunite with the team at the start of 2024, following Moroka Swallows’ financial turmoil.


Guided by Riveiro, Mabasa has hit a purple patch, cementing his role as the team’s number nine and dispelling any doubts about his capabilities. His resurgence comes at a crucial time for Pirates, especially considering the team’s earlier struggles this season to find a consistent goal scorer. However, Mabasa has seized his chance, ensuring that his goals directly contribute to Pirates’ victories – a vital asset for the remainder of the campaign. Moreover, he’ll be eager to bolster his tally, trailing just one goal behind Mamelodi Sundowns’ Lucas Ribeiro Costa, who currently sits atop the league’s scoring charts with 11 goals.


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Meet the versatile talent.



Tapelo Xoki transcends the role of a mere central defender; his leadership prowess has earned him the esteemed position of vice-captain, and in the absence of Innocent Maela, he adeptly steps into the captain’s shoes.


Furthermore, Xoki’s influence extends well beyond his defensive responsibilities, as he has seamlessly integrated into the Buccaneers’ attacking strategy, now assuming the crucial role of the team’s primary penalty taker.


Xoki’s cool-headedness under pressure is an invaluable asset in a team of Pirates’ stature, where players are expected to thrive in challenging situations, and he consistently meets and exceeds those expectations.


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A confident wonderkid



Despite occasional criticism for what some perceive as selfish play, Relebohile Mofokeng stands as a confident rising star whom Pirates would be wise to keep within their ranks for as long as possible.


Since his promotion from the reserves to the first team in July 2023, Mofokeng’s swift progression has garnered interest from abroad, including a trial offer from English Premier League outfit Wolverhampton Wanderers in October of last year.


Yet, amidst ongoing challenges, Mofokeng has shown his ability to step up when it counts. With guidance from his more seasoned teammates and coach Riveiro, the 19-year-old possesses the potential to contribute significantly and motivate Pirates towards securing a coveted Caf Champions League qualification by season’s end.



The surprising success



Despite initial doubts surrounding Thabiso Lebitso’s transfer from Chippa United during the January transfer window, he has swiftly silenced his critics. His unforgettable thunderous strike from outside the 18-yard box in the Soweto Derby’s 3-2 victory over Kaizer Chiefs endeared him to the Bucs faithful.


Lebitso has not only showcased his prowess in front of goal but has also proven himself as a formidable right-back, providing defensive solidity while playing a crucial role in the team’s attacking maneuvers.


Hailing from Chippa, Lebitso’s determination to carve out a place for himself at the Sea Robbers is evident, and there is no better opportunity for him to leave his mark than by contributing to his team’s pursuit of the prestigious continental showcase.



The guardian in goal



Goalkeeper Sipho Chaine has emerged as a commanding figure at the back, showcasing exceptional skill and leadership. Despite encountering an injury setback in the latter part of 2023, he made a triumphant comeback to the squad for the latter half of the campaign, reclaiming his position as the number-one choice.


Chaine’s remarkable command over his defense is commendable, coupled with his ability to make crucial saves, especially in penalty situations, further cementing his status as one of South Africa’s top goalkeepers.



Closing considerations


While these individuals may serve as the foundation for Pirates’ quest for a promising second-place finish by May 25th, it’s imperative to acknowledge the additional contributors within the club who must step up to ensure a berth in the Caf Champions League for the upcoming season. Who else do you think needs to step forward for the Buccaneers? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!



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