Wayne Sandilands: A man reborn and ready to end Bucs title drought
He's expropriated the Pirates No 1 shirt without compensation
If Wayne Sandilands were a farmer, he would be a true son of the soil. It is all in the surname: Sand+land.
For the better part of the soon to end 2018-19 season, the Pirates goalposts were like a poisoned chalice.
The club came close to conducting a commission of inquiry into the goalkeeping calamity, engineered by the comedy of errors committed by the butterfingers brigade of Sandilands, Jackson Mabokgwane and Siyabonga Mpontshane.
Sandilands got the nod for the maiden match of the campaign, a 1-1 draw with then newly promoted Highlands Park. The keeper, who models himself after retired former Turkish goalminder Rüstü Reçber, fumbled a backpass by Gladwin Shitolo.
That faux pas earned him jeers and was enough for him to be banished to the bench eight times and exiled to the stands on nine occasions as Mabokgwane and Mpontshane took turns to commit their own boo boos.
Like the proverbial phoenix, Sandilands has risen back to the front of the pecking order, expropriating the Pirates No 1 jersey without compensation.
The jeers have morphed into cheers with Sandilands - the staunch Christian - a man reborn as the anointed gloveman in the last 10 Pirates matches.
That period has been akin to walking on water for the Sea Robbers, a purple patch which saw them record six wins, three draws and a solitary defeat.
Those 21 points from a possible 30 propelled the title-chasing Pirates to the summit of the standings.
With winter rudely announcing its arrival in the Highveld, Sandilands was fetching his fireplace when I called him.
"I've just loaded it into the car and I have people with me," he said before politely asking to be called an hour later.
Sandilands contributed six clean sheets, helping to edge Pirates to ending a seven- year wait for the Holy Grail.
"That's why we joined Pirates, to contribute to the club's success. We're happy to be where we are now with two games to go. The cliche is, 'You can't be thinking about that yet.' It is not done yet. If you start too far ahead, it is easy to become more anxious and lose focus," said Sandilands.
The chase for the championship will certainly go down to the wire as Mamelodi Sundowns will not give up their gong sheepishly.
"If I had it my way it wouldn't. We will fight tooth and nail and do our part. We don't have to wait for anybody to do us favours. We win our two games and we are champions."
It would be bittersweet were Pirates to end their drought at the expense of Downs being docked points for Arendsegate, no?
"That's not for me to say. Everybody has got to stick to the rules of the game. If we win the league it would have been a long journey." It is possible if the Buccaneers slip up against either Cape Town City or Polokwane City.
"It is so easy to go down that road. But to keep our own sanity, we focus on doing our part, whatever happens. Right now we've got six points ahead of us. It's one game at a time and leaving all the noise and complications out."
His teammates call him Mfundisi, because like former Pirates goalkeeper William Okpara, he preaches the word and leads his fellow players in prayer. Being on the sidelines brought perspective to his life while his faith fed his resilience.
"It wasn't easy. What allowed me to persevere was my faith. I won't take any credit. It comes down to God's grace, knowing him, his promises and his word; there's nothing I've done out of my own mental strength."
Blame Rustu for the black lines below his eyes. "I remember watching the World Cup and seeing him and being inspired by that. I wanted to be like him cause I liked his style and his aura.
"I used my wife's lipstick when I started doing it. I've been raiding her cosmetic bag. Sometimes it is the stuff Indian ladies use for face painting. But now a buddy of mine gets the stuff that American footballers use. Funny enough it is in the same container as a lipstick," says the married father of three.
"My eldest boy is a gymnast, my daughter loves horse riding and we think the two-year-old is a cage fighter, judging by the way he does things," he laughs.