'Jele can play four or five more years'

Born in Mhluzi, a township in Middelburg, the man nicknamed 'Magents' arrived at Pirates as a youngster in 2006, eager to make his mark in the local game.

READ: Micho - Africa is missing Pirates

Now 12 years later, Jele celebrated his 200th appearance in the Absa Premiership when the Buccaneers beat Bloemfontein Celtic 2-1 at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday. Augustine Mulenga replaced him in the 75th minute after picking up a knock.

The 31-year-old was injured in the first half of the current season, but has returned in the second round to help solidify the Bucs defence, thanks to the experience he has gained over the years.

READ: Why Sangweni is not playing

Palacios says he noticed Jele's talent from the first day the player arrived at Pirates.

"When Happy Jele joined us he never played a single game. It was the first time I knew exactly Happy Jele, and from that time to now he is keeping the [same] discipline. He is keeping the commitment and he is keeping the full knowledge that he knows," said Palacios.

"I mean for him to have the 200 appearance...it's a very good achievement to play for Orlando Pirates, very good achievement. Especially you know to be a centre back, right back, to be the captain of the team, to winning the leagu;  congratulations to him.

“But it is because of his commitment, dedication and, even when he suffered an injury, he never complained. When he came back he never made any politics, any wrong or asked why was he not playing.

"He is working very hard, likes to correct his mistakes. He waited for the opportunity and more important he is consistent. I think for him to have Orlando Pirates as his first professional team and making 200 appearance is a good achievement.

Palacios continued: "You see he's got [a] good private life, he is the same as Lucky Lekgwathi. It all depends on the player; when are you sleeping, what are you eating, why are you eating, are you keeping your private life away from parties and are you staying away from drinking? If you keep your private life good you can play more years like Lucky Lekgwathi. If he can keep all these things he can still go four, five seasons.”

Despite his impressive milestone at Pirates, Jele has not been able to break into the Bafana Bafana team.

"Coaches are different, maybe the coach who selects the squad...maybe you are not the type of player that he needs. He can play the ball from the back, he's got technique, he's good in the air. It's puzzling why he is not with the national team, but it's part of football, that's all I can say."

Get the latest Orlando Pirates news sent to your phone!