Orlando Pirates have been given a lifeline in the race to sign Richard Ofori from Maritzburg United ahead of next season.
The Team of Choice recently confirmed their willingness not to stand in any of their players’ way should there be a willing buyer as they look to balance their financial books which have been hit hard by the suspension of the season due to the coronavirus.
On the other hand, the Buccaneers are on the lookout for a quality goalkeeper and have been linked with the Ghana international for the past few months.
This is because they have had to rely on Wayne Sandilands this season with Siyabonga Mpontshane clearly not in the coach’s plans after failing to make a single appearance thus far.
French shot-stopper Joris Delle hasn’t been reliable at all since his arrival – his record of conceding 11 goals in four starts has seen the majority of Pirates turn against him, and the technical team has opted to make him the club’s No.2 behind Sandilands.
Now, with Ofori seemingly available at the right price, should Pirates break the bank for his signature?
The Sea Robbers have never been afraid to buy or sign goalkeepers from other PSL clubs but it is how they perform once they arrive at Mayfair that determines whether or not management made the right decision.
Having already missed out on Ricardo Goss who is on his way to Mamelodi Sundowns following the sale of Bidvest Wits, Pirates have had to shift their focus on other goalkeepers, and while the club has remained mum on their targets, the availability of Ofori could well be what they need at this stage.
However, Ofori will not come cheap after recently extending his contract with the Team of Choice – whoever wants to sign him will definitely have to pay a lot of money to lure him.
Ofori has hardly disappointed since arriving in South Africa three years ago, and it is for this reason clubs such as Sundowns and Pirates have been linked heavily with him.
It’s a blessing in disguise that Sundowns opted to sign Goss because at 26, Ofori, with his goalkeeping qualities and abilities, deserves to be playing week in and week out.
And Sundowns pulling out of the race means Pirates are now the only club after Ofori’s signature, and they will have to break the bank if they really want to sign him because they need him more.
Over the past few seasons, Pirates have conceded more goals – and this is because of their lack of options in the goalkeeping department coupled with the shortage of quality centre-backs in the squad.
What Ofori would bring is stability more than anything to that leaky Pirates defence which at times cost the team crucial points.
Delle, a highly-rated goalkeeper upon his arrival at the start of the season due to the fact that he played in Europe, has proven that he’s nowhere near the level of goalkeepers in the PSL, and that could be because he’s yet to settle at Pirates.
The pressure of wanting to win trophies has also got into the heads of many players – and the supporters aren’t patient to any of the new players, meaning the expectations are very high for anyone who comes in from outside.
He has cracked under pressure thus far, and while he has kept the No.2 spot at the club, the fact of the matter is he knows very well that he’s there because Josef Zinnbauer doesn’t rate Mpontshane, and adding another goalkeeper to the ranks could see him improve or at worst get released if he’s not playing.
Sandilands’ rise from the ashes
At 36, not many thought Sandilands would be this reliable given the magnitude of the club Pirates are.
However, he has kept the team in the game in so many games, and at one stage, football fans even wanted him to return to the South Africa national team.
Nine clean sheets in 23 matches played this season hasn’t been bad at all.
In fact, this goes back to last season where he featured less but so did most for the club after criticism from the fans because of the number of goalkeeping errors he made at the time.
But last season alone, Sandilands kept seven clean sheets in 17 matches – six of those clean sheets came in 13 league games he played, and credit should go to him for using his experience for the benefit of the team.
Mpontshane’s fall from grace
Many expected Mpontshane to strongly challenge for the No.1 jersey at Pirates when Brilliant Khuzwayo was forced to retire and perhaps he is doing exactly that and he’s just not rated by Zinnbauer and other coaches before him.
After making 18 appearances last season, one would have expected Mpontshane to feature more but this hasn’t been the case as he has been relegated to just being a back-up goalkeeper behind both Sandilands and Delle.
Chances are that he may leave the club at the end of the season because he hasn’t been contributing anything so far, and that alone could open doors for Pirates to bring in another goalkeeper without hesitation.
Mpontshane is 34, and still has a few years left in him and he wouldn’t want to waste them by sitting on the stands when he should be playing.
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