Mon 17 Sep by Nick Said
An improving Orlando Pirates may have had an inconsistent start to the new Premier Soccer League season, but one stand-out player throughout for The Buccaneers has been Xola Mlambo.It is a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for a player who was clubless in 2015 but has developed into one of the most influential midfielders in South Africa’s top-flight. He put on another star show as Pirates defeated SuperSport United on Saturday to end a run of 10 games without success against Matsatsantsa, including providing the assist of the season so far with a perfect back-heel for Thembinkosi Lorch to net the Soweto side’s second goal.Mlambo’s contribution hasn’t gone unnoticed, with fans talking him up for the Bafana Bafana squad for the home and away African Nations Cup qualifiers against Seychelles in October, while he was also named Pirates player of the month for August.“It’s a great honour to be nominated for such an award, especially in a time where we haven’t been doing as well as we had planned for as a team,” Mlambo said. “When we get onto the field we aren’t thinking of awards, but rather to help the team win games so to be here right now is a pleasant surprise.“This award has added to my motivation and will be a constant reminder that I need to keep working hard. One thing is for sure, if I’m working hard enough to get recognised, it also means I’m pushing for my team to do well at the same time.”The 27-year-old was searching for a club just three years ago after playing for the North West University, and he was eventually picked up by National First Division Cape Town All Stars.After just four games for the second-tier side he was snapped up by Chippa United in the second half of the 2015/16 season and became an instant regular under coach Dan Malesela.He won the league with BidVest Wits the following season, but played a small role, only starting six games as the Clever Boys marched to the title, with a move to Pirates in January 2018 seeing his fortunes revived.The Soweto-born star was a regular under Micho Sredojevic in the second half of the last campaign and this season has been a key man, starting every game.
Pirates will next be in action tomorrow (WED) when they host Cape Town City, with TAB Soccer punters sure to take the form of Mlambo into account when making their picks.