Orlando Pirates coach Rhulani Mokwena has explained why striker Justin Shonga is not getting game-time, while discussing his impressive form for the Zambia national team.
Shonga has been absent from Pirates’ squad during their last five Absa Premiership fixtures, while he’s managed just two starts in domestic competitions thus far.
Since his arrival at the club just over two years ago, the 22-year-old has fallen out of favour with The Buccaneers’ faithful, having struggled for consistency in front of goal.
His form at club level may be gloomy, but the former police officer recently reaffirmed his prowess with Chipolopolo, with whom he scored his sixth and seventh goals in his 15th senior international appearances against Benin at the weekend.
“The challenge [for Shonga] is Mabasa. The challenge is that the competition is strong,” explained Mokwena of the player’s situation.
“Shonga is a very important player for us, he offers us a different dynamic with regards to our game model and how we have to play when we play with him.
“But at the same time also, he knows that as much as he’s important, he also has a lot of other important strikers around him that he’s got to compete with.
“One being Mabasa, the other being Mhango, there’s also Mulenga in that fray, and there’s the young Zakhele Lepasa also, and they’re all important players and strikers – they all know how important they are to the team.”
Regarding his two goals, Mokwena also admitted that there has already been analysis done and discussions have been held on where he need to improve at club level.
“Justin did extremely well for Zambia against Benin, took the two goals very well, it’s not like they were penalties or set-plays, but the movement off the shoulder for both goals – one a little bit further out and the other inside the box,” he added.
“We’ve sat down with him to analyse his performance and to check. But he’s in a good space at the moment and he’s competing for his place, and the most important thing is that he understands, as much as he’s important, there’s other very important players and they all have to compete. That’s the nature of the beast at Orlando Pirates.
“We’ve got quality players in all the positions and they’ve got to compete for their places. At the moment, Mabasa has the nod and [Shonga] patiently has to wait for his turn, and when he gets, he’s got to grab it with both hands and not look back.”