Bafana Bafana and Orlando Pirates captain Thulani Hlatshwayo is rated as one of the top defenders in Southern Africa and has gained a reputation for being tough as nails and never shying away from a challenge.
But, he made a costly mistake of amateurish proportions that gifted Mamelodi Sundowns a goal in a DStv Premiership clash, which eventually ended 3-0 in favour of the Tshwane giants at Orlando Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Hlatshwayo was also the culprit for the inconsistent Pirates side when they played out to a 1-1 draw with Swallows as he put the ball in his own net.
The Buccaneers coach Josef Zinnbauer, though disappointed, had some comforting words for Hlatshwayo. “I don’t want to talk a lot about the mistakes by my players, we do this internally,” he said.
“But I can say that it is always in a situation where players have bad times and good times and when we talk about the start of the season, he was very strong for us, he is a leader, and he fights.
“At the moment, you can see he is a bit unlucky, but he played a lot of games without breaks, he is always on the field fighting, he is always training 100 percent, he goes forward, he leads the team.”
Hlatshwayo joined the Soweto giants at the beginning of the season – renowned as a top and reliable centre-back with Bidvest Wits – leading his former club to the 2016/17 PSL title and 2016 MTN8 triumph.
Zinnbauer believes the defender with over 50 caps in Bafana colours is just having a horrible time on the field of play but that doesn’t mean he is a bad player.
“This is not so easy when we speak about a leader when we speak about a captain. He is not alone on the field and after a training session, he can’t say it’s finished for me, no. During training, before training, and after training he has talks with the young players, he leads the guys, he gives them and he gives the young players.
“He gives them direction in the squad. He is everywhere and it’s not easy for us to say he can focus on himself. We need to give him a bit more time and maybe he can rest and recover. He’s a big player and a national player. A mistake is a mistake,” concluded the German coach.
RELATED STORY: Sundowns hammer Pirates
By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi