Thembinkosi Lorch: potential Bafana Bafana match winner

15 March, 2019
From humble beginnings in the small Free State town of Ficksburg, where he played for his father’s club, Mountain Eagles, Orlando Pirates winger Thembinkosi Lorch has turned setbacks into challenges and may just be the X-factor the national team needs right now.

It’s been a long road for Lorch, whose early promise earned him a move to Maluti FET College (then a National First Division team from the Free State), where his performances caught the eye of the Pirates scouts back in 2015.

But the Buccaneers management felt the diminutive winger was not yet ready for the rigours of the Premiership and shipped him off to the Mother City for a loan spell at Cape Town All Stars.

Under the tutelage of Dan Malesela, Lorch excelled in the First Division and notched five goals in 23 league matches in the 2015/ 16 season, playing alongside the likes of Luvuyo Memela and Paseka Mako, both now also at Pirates.

The Soweto giants then re-signed Lorch, but once again there was another pitstop in store as he was sent off to Chippa United, reuniting with Malesela in July of 2016.

Wondering if he would ever get to play for Bucs, Lorch previously admitted that ‘there was a point where I regretted joining Pirates’. Yet once more, he knuckled down to work, and after just 17 matches and six months with the Chilli Boys, he finally arrived at Orlando Pirates in January of 2017.

He finished that season with two goals from 15 league and cup appearances, and has not looked back; the following campaign (2017/ 18) saw Lorch featuring in 24 matches in all competitions and scoring four goals.

Now fully settled, firing on all cylinders and playing with a real swagger, Lorch has taken it to another level: in 26 domestic fixtures this season, he has rifled in nine goals and added four assists. He’s also scored twice in the CAF Champions League.

He’s still only 25, but is showing every sign of being close to a finished product as he nears his prime years. Blessed with electrifying pace, a lovely touch, an abundance of skill, and well balanced on both his left and right sides – which makes him unpredictable and difficult to mark - Lorch can eliminate opponents at will with the drop of a shoulder or quick change of direction.

Around the box, he’s becoming ever more deadly; be it with a pin-point delivery for a team-mate, or with a clinical finish of his own.

Arguably South African football’s biggest problem is that even the most talented and skilful players all too often lack the composure needed to get the ball in the back of the net. Lorch however seems to be a fairly rare exception to the rule.

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane recently summed up Lorch’s attributes well – after the pair of them were named as the Coach and the Player of the Month for January by the Premier Soccer League.

“He is scoring goals and he is really contributing to Pirates’ success,” Mosimane said. “What’s encouraging for him is that he is starting to score goals. As I always say I don’t like wingers who just cross the ball, wingers must score.

“So he is just showing maturity and is getting there. His contribution is big. He is a hard runner, he is always there and he is always fighting for the team. The future is bright. I’m just crossing fingers that very soon he will be helping us with national colours.”

Bafana have never been short of options when it comes to attacking midfielders, and to date, Lorch has only played a handful of games for the national team, mainly in friendly fixtures or in less important competitions such as the COSAFA Cup.

Sundowns winger Themba Zwane, also competing for wide midfield spot in the Bafana team set to do duty against Libya in a crunch Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2019 qualifier on March 24, probably won’t be thanking his club boss for singing Lorch’s praise.

But based on Lorch’s sensational current form and game-breaking ability, national team coach Stuart Baxter must surely be having a very serious think about starting the former Mountain Eagles flyer against the Mediterranean Knights in the Tunisian city of Sfax in just over one week’s time.