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Has Orlando Pirates' Saleng become the next Lorch?

17:00 GMT+3 10/11/2022
Monnapule Saleng, Orlando Pirates, October 2022
The former Free State Stars forward was the match winner in Saturday's 1-0 win over AmaZulu in the MTN8 final at the Moses Mabhida Stadium

While Monnapule Saleng's Orlando Pirates star is shining bright, Thembinkosi Lorch's light is fading.

Saleng favours his left foot while Lorch is better on his right. But in terms of playing style, physical stature and ability, that's about where the differences end, such are the similarities between the pair.

Pacey and agile, they're able to weave their willowy physiques through tight defences and can produce a moment of magic at any time to make something from nothing.

That's down not only to their technique, but also to their imaginations and footballing brains.

When on form and fit, they're the kind of players which fans love - due to their almost nonchalant skill and confidence to make opposition players look silly. They're also the kind of players which teammates and coaches appreciate, because more often than not, there's an end product to their play - a killer pass, an assist, a goal.

However, in terms of career progress, Lorch, 29 and Saleng (24) are in vastly different spaces.

Lorch seemingly hit his peak four seasons back when he scored 15 goals in a season for the Buccaneers and was a regular in the Bafana Bafana starting XI.

Since then however he’s faded further and further to the fringes, apparently through injury, though it remains a grey area as Pirates have not been especially clear about the reasons he’s been out so long.

There have also been a couple of occasions where he seemed to be about to return, only to remain absent.

Saleng meanwhile has had to work hard to get opportunities at Pirates and now that his chance has come, he’s grabbing headlines for his sensational play and goals – he’s netted five in eight games this term, including two in the second leg MTN8 semi-final vs Mamelodi Sundowns and the winner in the final against AmaZulu.

Having first surfaced at third-tier outfit Orbit College, he went on to score 14 goals for Free State Stars in the second division before being signed by Pirates, only to be loaned to Swallows FC.

Things never really took off for him at the Birds though and when Pirates signed a bunch of new attackers ahead of this season and later brought in Kermit Erasmus, it could have been thought that Saleng might be far down the pecking order and fade away.
Instead, the opposite had happened and credit should go to both the player and head coach Jose Riveiro for making that happen.

All the while Lorch must be watching on from a distance, perhaps a little envious that he’s unable to share in the celebrations after winning the MTN8 and being part of an improving team.

While there has been speculation that he might leave the club, Pirates fans would surely love to see the two of them in action together – with Lorch and Saleng on each wing, the Bucs attack would be a formidable one indeed.