Following an international break that put the spotlight back on why Orlando Pirates have not been using Justin Shonga – the striker scoring two goals for Zambia against Benin in a friendly match at the weekend – his club coach has offered an explanation.
Shonga has not been able to crack it into Rulani Mokwena’s matchday squad in the Buccaneers previous five Absa Premiership matches, much to the shock of the football fraternity given how important he was for the club last season.
He scored 12 goals in 43 matches in all competitions during the previous campaign, and his overall contribution proved just why Shonga was crucial for Pirates.
But not this season…
“The challenge is (Tshegofatso) Mabasa. Shonga is important and offers a different dynamic to our game model and how we play,” Mokwena, the Bucs coach, told the Siya crew when asked why Shonga has been sidelined.
“In the same moment he knows that he is has other strikers competing with him – (Augustine) Mulenga, (Gabadinho) Mhango and the young (Zakhele) Lepasa. They are all important players and strikers. Justin did well for Zambia, and took the goals very well. The movement off the shoulder to get the goals.”
Mokwena then revealed he’s had a heart to heart with the player to analyse his shortcomings, to work through them and get back in contention.
“We sat down with him and he is in a good place and competing for his place. He understands that there are other important players – that is the nature of the beast. They are a lot of quality players at Pirates. He is patiently waiting for his turn. And when he gets it he has to grab it with both hands and not look back,” the coach said.
Pirates face Stellenbosch FC in the opening round of the Telkom Knockout on Saturday.