Jacobs revives Pirates, as Mbakera defends ‘old-age home’

Patience Gaseb in action for Pirates against Unam. Photo: Helge Schütz

Woody Jacobs’ mission to keep the Orlando Pirates ship from sinking is on course, following two wins on the road in the Debmarine Namibia Premiership over the weekend.

Jacobs’ management style appears to have struck a chord with the rag-tag Sea Robbers, who impressed in beating Unam and Life Fighters 2-1 each in Windhoek and at Otjiwarongo, respectively.

It was only the third and fourth wins for a Pirates side that is faced with relegation and has gone through three coaches this season.

The victories moved 14-point Pirates off the foot of the table, three points ahead of Life Fighters, and just as many behind Civics in the third automatic relegation spot.

A shrewd tactician, Jacobs says hours of relentless effort on the training field are beginning to pay dividends.

“Where we are playing doesn’t matter at this stage, winning is the most important thing. I’ve been here for a month now, it’s been hard work behind the scenes and trying to get a team that can compete,” he says.

He cautions against getting carried away, but maintained that his charges are up for the fight and avoid the same fate as long-time rivals Black Africa who went down last season.

“It’s not over until the fat lady sings. We’ll keep our eyes firmly on our team, and were going to push. We hope to keep on the same trajectory,” Jacobs says.

Meanwhile, Mervin Mbakera believes his off-colour African Stars will come good and remain the team to beat in the race for top-flight honours.

The coach admits his team’s standards have dropped recently, following a run of one win in five matches.

This sequence, which includes two defeats and a draw, has given rise to suggestions that many of his key stars are on the wrong side of 30 and struggling to maintain the high levels that saw them march to the title with relative ease last season.

Stars were overrun 2-0 at Unam on Sunday after they looked comfortable when beating Life Fighters by the same score on Friday.

The defending premiership champions were also second best when going down 2-0 to title challengers Khomas Nampol nine days ago, having battled to a goalless draw against Young Brazilians the day before.

The poor run of form started with a 2-2 draw against Tigers in December when they had to battle back to force a share of the points.

Mbakera says his side is going through a rough patch, but they have enough quality and experience to overcome the dip in form.

“We lacked concentration, then we started chasing the game. When you chase the game, the structure sometimes loses the discipline,” he said in his post-match analysis on Sunday.

The tactician remains steadfast that Stars can retain the title despite the threat of newcomers Nampol, who remain top of the log by a point, despite losing 3-2 at Mighty Gunners on Saturday, and a goalless draw away to fellow newbies Eeshoke Chula Chula on Sunday.

“I’ve always said these players have championship character. A lot of them know how to win the league, they didn’t only win the league with Stars, they won it at various clubs. This is where that champion character is needed – from everybody – to make sure we’re behind each other,” Mbakera said.

“There’s still a lot of points to be played for. We’re way off the mark of our initial target that we wanted by this stage.

“So, now we have to make sure we grind out the results until that belief [returns]. You can see there’s just something missing, that oomph is missing in the team. It’s points dropped, but it’s not the end of the world. We didn’t lose the league,” Mbakera said.

Stars’ rivals, which include FC Ongos in third place, should write them off at their own peril, he said.

Ongos returned to winning ways with an emphatic 3-0 thumping of an erratic Blue Waters and a 2-0 victory over Okahandja Unite over the weekend.

Ongos are now on 39 points, one point less than Stars, and two off the summit.

“Last season when we assembled this team, we played the same Unam squad at Hage Geingob Stadium. Because we didn’t gel, they [Unam] were running the show, and everybody was saying it’s an old-age home [at Stars].

“Later when we gelled and became a team, we were called the national team of Namibia,” Mbakera said.

“Everybody has their own opinion, but I believe these players can still turn the tables around.”

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