What led to the Bucs ship to sink?

2010-11-21 13:39

That Orlando Pirates captain Lucky ­Lekgwathi admitted to his

limitations as a makeshift leftback, spells a shortage of quality in the

backline of a side that harbours hopes of breaking a seven-year

championship draught.

Any league is won by the best defence and Pirates’ last Premier Soccer League triumph in the 2002/03 campaign was attributed to their water-tight rearguard, which gave away a measly 16 goals all season.

In the past two seasons, the Bucs defence was again the envy of many Premiership coaches following their remarkable defensive record.

Last season, they kept a clean sheet in seven matches and only conceded their first goal after more than 630 minutes of league football. This statistic preceded the five goals they gave away in their opening eight Premiership games two seasons ago.

They have now conceded seven in eight matches, which makes the statistic absurd when compared to early pace-setters and ­rivals Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs, who have let in four and three goals ­respectively.

In the aftermath of the Soweto derby where Lekgwathi and his co-defenders gave in to Chiefs’ striker Knowledge Musona, the setback brought to the fore a lack of depth in the current Bucs defence.

Bucs have not lost by a three-goal margin since January 2007 and such a leak points to their limitations at the back.

Of all the positions in coach Rudi Krol’s back four, the left-back slot is the most ­limited.

This is unlike at right-back and central defence where Krol can slot in anyone between Lekgwathi, Happy Jele and Rooi Mahamutsa.

“I think we should go into the market for a quality back-up in the left-back position,” ­Lekgwathi admitted.

While the 34-year-old was mostly used in the same position last season, it seems the idea has backfired with tacticians like Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic exploiting the weakness.

“I am still playing like last season but the difference now is that I used to enjoy cover from Lucas (Thwala), who at the time played a central role.”

In their inflated squad, Pirates have at least 10 defenders and only Thwala and Ruben Cloete seem obvious choices for leftback.

The two are also natural left-footed players.

Having them nursing injuries simultaneously left the coach without options at left-back, but to expose Lekgwathi to the pace of the likes of Musona who took advantage of the situation when he left the veteran defender for dead in last weekend’s derby at FNB ­Stadium.

With the return of Cloete to full training, the former Free State Stars defender is likely to mark his return against Maritzburg United in the Telkom Knockout semifinal today.

Cloete featured in a Pirates team that played First Division side FC AK in a friendly midweek.

With Lekgwathi and Jele suspended, ­indications are that Cloete will marshal the defence with Robyn Johannes and Mahamutsa in ­central defence as well as makeshift right-back Oupa Manyisa.

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