Jackson Mabokgwane was informed 10 minutes before kick-off against AmaZulu in Durban on Saturday that he would be playing ahead of Initially selected Siyabonga Mpontshane, but that did not stop him from producing a Man of the Match performance.
In what was considered a near faultless performance against AmaZulu, which ended 1-1, Mabokgwane must have made a serious claim for the number one jersey with that inspired performance.
He is well aware that one swallow does not make a summer and equally aware of the competition he faces in an Orlando Pirates team boasting such quality goalkeepers as Wayne Sandilands, Brilliant Khuzwayo and Siyabonga Mpontshane, but he is determined nonetheless to rise above the challenge.
This determination shone through on Saturday when, while going through their customary routine warm-up at Umlazi Stadium, former Swansea and now Pirates goalkeeper coach Andrew Sparkes came up to him and informed him he must get ready to play.
“Coach Sparkes informed me 10 minutes before kickoff against AmaZulu that Mpontshane appeared to be having a slight muscle strain and I must get ready,” said Mabokgwane. “Within that 10-minutes I had to mentally switch on for the match.”
Mabokgwane displayed a five star performance during a game in which AmaZulu threw everything at the Soweto club bar the kitchen sink, but the Limpopo born player dealt superbly with everything they threw at him.
“You know when one guy (Mpontshane) has the sunset,” gushed Pirate’s Serbian coach Milotin Sredojevic in a postman interview with SuperSport TV, “the other guy (Mabokgwane) has the sunrise. So the situation came that got Siya injured and Jackson came in and put on a stunning performance.
“His shot stopping was wonderful. His ball delivery was our 11th player. He did everything well and I think being without Mpontshane shows that if you put a player inside he delivers and I believe Jackson delivered today.”
The ever-humble goalkeeper blessed with the ability to command his area and the agility of a cat that enables him to spin acrobatically to pluck the ball off the air, said the best was still to come.
“It is a matter of getting opportunities and grabbing them with both hands,” he said. “I prepared very well when the season started and obviously there are a lot of quality players at the club but we encourage each other and competition is healthy.
“Although I started the season well, I want to perform much better than last season. I have been waiting for my chance and it came against AmaZulu. I was extremely satisfied about my performance but obviously I have to keep the standard in order to be selected for the next game.”
Although a hard taskmaster and well-known perfectionist, Mabokgwane accepted that there was pretty little he could have done about the AmaZulu goal scored by Argentinean Emiliano Tade.
“I would have loved to keep a clean sheet,” said Mabokgwane. “But they took their goal very well. It was a clean, well taken goal and much as I tried to prevent it, I was beaten and it’s obviously disappointing but it’s part of the game.”
The Absa Premiership goes into a two-week break due to the back-to-back AFCON qualifier against Seychelles and Pirates play against their traditional nemesis Kaizer Chiefs in their next match on October 27 and Mabokgwane will be hoping to wear the number one jersey.