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The new Tso Vilakazi - Orlando Pirates' Ndlondlo makes his mark

19:45 GMT+3 22/01/2023
Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo Orlando Pirates
The ex-Marumo Gallants star has struggled to make the starting XI since arriving three months ago, despite having done well when given a chance.

Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo put in arguably his best Orlando Pirates performance in Bucs' 4-1 thrashing of Stellenbosch FC.

In effect he has been paying the price for coach Jose Riveiro's preference for a more defensive setup in the engine room.

But with Miguel Timm out injured, Ndlondlo was given a rare start and the player made a big claim for a more regular berth in the first XI with an outstanding display against Stellies.

There was a moment in the first half when he showed his superb vision to thread in a brilliant pass for Bandile Shandu, splitting the eye of a needle, only for Shandu to hit the bar.

He continued to pull the strings in midfield as Bucs dominated proceedings and then capped his afternoon around the hour mark with a sumptuous dipping drive from nearly 30-yards out which found the bottom corner of the net.

It was the little man’s second goal for the Sea Robbers and he had a surprise in store for slightly older Pirates fans, as he copied the goal celebration of a former Bucs legend, Benedict ‘Tso’ Vilakazi - grabbing hold of his one ankle and bending up the leg behind himself.

There are certainly similarities in the two men in terms of their short frames and their confident temperaments. Ndlondlo showed his enjoyment of the big stage with some audacious skills later on.

Like Vilakazi, Ndlondlo is not one to let his lack of height allow opponents to out-muscle him – he can hold his own on the field.

They are both attack-minded midfielders who surge forward from the middle of the park to threaten the opposition box.

Vilakazi though will go down as one of Pirates’ greatest ever players because he matched his industry and creativity with end product – he netted 58 goals in 170 matches for the Buccaneers, a fantastic return for a non-striker.

It would be getting carried away to think that Ndlondlo might go on to have the same influence. But he is still just 27-years-old and he did score eight league goals last season for Marumo Gallants.
He could well go on to have a successful four or five seasons for Pirates if he continues to build on his performances.

Ndlondlo has 21 professional goals to his name – 11 in the PSL, five in the National First Division and six in the Nedbank Cup.