Absa Premiership

ANALYSIS | Orlando Pirates under scrutiny after protocol breach

Thembinkosi Lorch  of Orlando Pirates during the Absa Premiership match between Golden Arrows and Orlando Pirates at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium on March 07, 2020 in Durban, South Africa.
Thembinkosi Lorch of Orlando Pirates during the Absa Premiership match between Golden Arrows and Orlando Pirates at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium on March 07, 2020 in Durban, South Africa.
Anesh Debiky
  • Orlando Pirates will be under intense scrutiny after Thembinkosi Lorch and Justin Shonga were excluded from the bio-safe environment after breaching team protocols.
  • The two players will now be isolated for a period of up to 10 days and be subjected to an internal disciplinary process.
  • This comes as the latest incident to undermine efforts to complete the 2019/2020 season after Kaizer Chiefs' Bobby Motaung was suspended for a similar transgression.

Public opinion and media scrutiny will all be intensely focused on Orlando Pirates' internal disciplinary process after players Thembinkosi Lorch and Justin Shonga were found to have breached the team's safety protocols.

The Buccaneers announced shortly before their 0-0 draw against Mamelodi Sundowns at Dobsonville Stadium on Tuesday evening that the two players had been excluded from the squad that reported for the bio-safe environment (BSE).

The duo had been excluded from the playing squad that entered the BSE on Sunday with Pirates confirming to Sport24 that the incident had occurred before then, allaying fears that Lorch and Shonga had breached the safe environment.

The club said in a statement: "All players have been educated, and are constantly reminded, of their responsibilities as public servants and role models.

"It is our role and duty to ensure that all members of this organisation are fully compliant and aware of the measures that are in place."

The two players will now be excluded from all team activities until undergoing two Covid-19 tests. Both will return to play after internal disciplinary processes has been finalised by the club.

Irvin Khoza warning on adhering to protocols

It is an embarrassing situation for club and PSL chairperson Irvin Khoza, as it involves a player who publicly stated that he was "unsettled" after failing to secure a move to Europe last season.

There has been known tension between the club and a disgruntled Lorch, who has admitted that he has still not come to terms with failing to secure a dream move to Europe.

The Iron Duke, as Khoza is known, on Friday urged all to respect the BSE.

Khoza warned that those who compromised the BSE were insulting the country as a whole.

"I think the magnitude and the demand for compliance is heavy to most of the teams‚" Khoza said.

"We've had the Board of Governors (32 PSL teams) in our meetings six or seven times emphasising one important thing: compliance‚ compliance‚ compliance.

"But what was key in that compliance was to observe the issues of health. Because unfortunately we are dealing with a health situation and nobody can figure out how it affects us in a way‚ or two‚ or three‚ or four‚ that we can plan for - it's a moving target.

"So therefore, we have done everything humanly possible. And that is why we are the only industry in this country that‚ when we go back to work‚ we have gone for all this necessary testing."

Khoza added: "If you are in the BSE‚ you go to training‚ or to the match situation. Any other diversion‚ you're compromising the BSE."

The transgression by the two players might even be viewed as a sign of disrespect towards the club and to Khoza personally in disregard his previous warning.

The expected punishment handed out by the club should fall in line with the 10-day isolation period that will see both players excluded from all club activities.

Similar instances of players breaching bio-bubble

English cricketer Jofra Archer on 16 July was excluded from the second Test Match against West Indies in a three-match series following a similar breach of the team's bio secure protocols. It was reported that the 25-year-old Archer had stopped off at his flat in Brighton, traveling between Southampton and Manchester.

Archer was required to isolate for five days and provide two negative Covid-19 tests before he then rejoined the squad for the third and final Test.

In the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers' Lou Williams on 26 July also underwent a 10-day quarantine after being investigated by the league for breaching protocols.

Williams had initially been given permission to leave the NBA's Walt Disney World bio-bubble to attend  family member's funeral. He was however then pictured in an Atlanta stripclub with those images later surfacing on social media.

Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize recently revised the recommended isolation period for patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 from 14 to 10 days. The PSL will likely use a similar period of a maximum of 10 days to give players enough time to undergo two rounds of testing.

Undermining attempts to complete 2019/2020 season

This most recent event does seriously undermine attempts to successfully complete the 2019/2020 PSL season.

Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs on 4 August suspended football manager Bobby Motaung for breaching lockdown regulations after videos surfaced on social media.

Motaung, who is the eldest son of club owner Kaizer Motaung, was suspended until 31 August after videos showed him at a birthday party with a host of other guests.

"As part of our policies and continuous process of monitoring the public conduct of our members, players, and staff, Kaizer Chiefs has decided to summarily suspend football manager Bobby Motaung," the club said in a stern statement.

As of 11 August, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa stood at 566 109 cases with 10 751 deaths. The number of cases in the Gauteng province where the bio bubble is being staged stands at 194 093 - the highest in the country.

Instances like these could damage the PSL's attempts to safely finish the current campaign with stringent regulations needing to be adhered to by all to ensure player safety.