JOHANNESBURG – Soweto giants Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs could very well reclaim their glory days in South African football following some crucial additions to their teams recently.
Gavin Hunt’s appointment as Chiefs’ new coach was the much-celebrated acquisition after their disappointing end to the campaign under coach Ernst Middendorp and assistant Shaun Bartlett.
But the club should be pleased with the appointment of Dillon Sheppard and Arthur Zwane as Hunt’s right-hand men. Sheppard and Zwane’s history as former footballers in the domestic league is well-documented.
But it is what they’ve done since hanging up their boots that ensured that they stood head and shoulders above their competitors, such as Kwanele Kopo and Doctor Khumalo, who were also potential candidates.
Sheppard was on course to win the reserve league, the MultiChoice Diski Challenge, with Bidvest Wits last season. But he was deprived of the official coronation after the season was cancelled by Covid-19.
But the 41-year-old coach will be pleased that his graduates – such as Keenan Phillips, Mpho Mathebula, Janovane September and Rowan Human – were integral for the seniors during their days in the bio bubble as they finished fourth.
Sheppard’s job didn’t go unnoticed by Hunt and he was confirmed as the second assistant at Amakhosi alongside Zwane on Monday.
Zwane gets promotion to Hunt’s technical team, having done some excellent work with the club’s reserves in the last few seasons. Players such as Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya, Njabulo Blom, Happy Mashiane, Bruce Bvuma, Siyabonga Ngezana and Nkosingiphile Ngcobo have earned their stripes in the senior team.
Given that the two appointments were decided by Chiefs and Hunt, with Zwane being appointment by the club and Sheppard by Hunt, it helps that the duo are also good friends off the pitch and are classmates as they are doing their Uefa B license with the Irish FA.
But neighbours Pirates also have something to look forward to ahead of the next term. On Monday they also confirmed the arrival of former Wits defender Thulani Hlatshwayo and winger Deon Hotto.
Hlatshwayo and Hotto bring vast domestic and continental experience to Pirates. They’ve fought many local and continental battles with Hunt at Wits but that they are also paramount for the South African and Namibian national teams respectively, makes them well suited for Pirates.
The Bucs will return to continental football next term, via the CAF Confederation Cup. But they’ll know that in order to rediscover their glory days, they’ll also have to put up a good fight locally against Mamelodi Sundowns who’ve ruled the land for the last three seasons.
And that’s why the introduction of Hlatshwayo, who’ll likely partner captain Happy Jele in the heart of Pirates’ defence and Hotto who’ll be part of the potent attacking unit that has Gabadinho Mhango and Thembinkosi Lorch should enable coach Josef Zinnbauer to take a run at the league title.