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The story of Thembinkosi Lorch’s transformation under Morena Ramoreboli

When Maluti FET College met Orlando Pirates in the first round of the Nedbank Cup on 24 February 2013, Morena Ramoreboli told Thembinkosi Lorch that he would not set foot in the field of play that day.

Not expecting to hear such news, it came as a crushing blow for Lorch. Here was a mentor telling an eager 20-year-old budding starlet in the Vodacom League that his boots would not touch a blade of grass as his team played one of South Africa’s football giants.

A match against Pirates for any player, let alone one in the Vodacom League, is one that no diski star worth his salt would want to miss.


It is a match that can transform a footballer’s career after just a few touches of the ball. Yet here was Ramoreboli, telling Lorch, one of the brightest talents in a trailblazing Maluti side, that he would have to watch proceedings from the dugout on that momentous occasion.

As devastating a setback it was for Lorch, his coach had his reasons. “Lorch didn’t play against Pirates, but I remember telling him he would be bigger than those who would play against Pirates. I told him he was young, and I’d do everything to protect him,” Ramoreboli tells FARPost.

As Lorch watched from the dugout at the Charles Mopeli Stadium, Maluti made history that afternoon, humiliating a treble-winning Pirates side 4-1 in a match that sent shockwaves across South African football.

The world now knew who Maluti was, but the name Thembinkosi Lorch did not ring even the faintest bell. No one knew who Lorch was, but Ramoreboli was in no doubt that would soon change.

Thembinkosi Lorch shows his PSL awards to his former coach Morena Ramoreboli
Thembinkosi Lorch and his former coach Morena Ramoreboli

That Pirates encounter would not be the last Ramoreboli would have to “protect” his prodigy from Ficksburg in the Free State.

“Some scouts approached me during the play-offs [the national second-division play-offs in 2013], saying they were scouting for Ajax and badly needed the player to join them. They said I must not play him because Pirates would see him,” Ramoreboli says.

“At that time, Lorch had a knee problem, but he insisted that he couldn’t take the team to the final and not play. He played in that final against Baroka.”

The word was out – the giant-killing Maluti had a secret weapon that did not even feature against the Buccaneers.


Lorch’s rising star was a testament to Ramoreboli’s scouting skills. He had come a long way with the skinny kid from Ficksburg who had kicked off his football journey by playing for his father’s amateur team, Mountain Eagles. The Jwaneng Galaxy coach even recalls the colour of boots the young hopeful wore on that Sunday of June 2011 – a purplish boot!

“I went to hold trials in Ficksburg one weekend while working for Maluti. We didn’t see much on Saturday, but I knew there was a playoff on that day, so some boys didn’t make it to the trials.

“So I went back on Sunday and saw this skinny boy. He was so tiny, but the moment he got onto the field, he was technically gifted and had this arrogance. I pulled him out after just five minutes because I was convinced he was a good player,” the 43-year-old coach explains.

Lorch’s five-minute audition in Ficksburg, a small town at the foot of the 1,750-meter-high Imperani Mountain, will forever live in the minds of those in the Free State that day.

“I was with Coach Morena on the day; the boy was tiny yet technically superb; he had this arrogance. It took five minutes to convince us he was one for the future. We couldn’t leave him behind,” Teboho Ramakoa, who worked closely with Ramoreboli, tells FARPost.

The two coaches knew they had unearthed a gem, but from the onset, it was clear that it would not all be smooth sailing. Lorch was a young lad from a small town, and there were bound to be obstacles they would not have foreseen.


A young Thembinkosi Lorch in action
Thembinkosi Lorch

For one thing, their newly acquired pocket rocket did not even possess a national identity document. “I then discovered he didn’t have an ID, which meant we couldn’t register him. We then had to facilitate that he gets an ID in QwaQwa with the help of his mother,” Ramoreboli adds.

An ID would turn out to be the least of Ramoreboli’s problems. Lorch’s small frame might have allowed him to twist, turn and glide past opponents, but it did not prepare him for the hurly-burly of professional football. The skinny starlet would need to bulk up and do so quickly.

“Coach Morena had to devise a plan to work on his conditioning because he had everything else. That would be his diet and gym work because we knew we had found an incredible talent,” Ramakoa adds.
And then there was that failed national Under 20 trial. The technical team didn’t see what Ramoreboli and Ramakoa saw in a matter of minutes.

“At the time, Lorch was a learner [Grade 11] at Marallaneng Secondary School in Ficksburg and had been playing for his dad’s side Mountain Eagles in Ficksburg. So with Lorch, we saw the technical ability,” the Cosafa Cup-winning coach says.

Malefetsane Rankati, a former Maluti striker, remembers how Lorch, a young small-town lad now playing with the big boys, was a bundle of nerves in those early days at Maluti. In those days of minimal confidence, Ramoreboli’s touch kept him grounded.


“I still remember vividly. Lorch arrived while he was still a very young boy and nervous because of the good players who were there at the time. He was still under the guidance of Coach Morena. Lorch is who he is today because of Coach Morena. He took him under his wing as his son and developed him,” Rankati tells FARPost.

With Ramoreboli’s help, Lorch has come a long way from the scrawny kid who needed only 300 seconds to show that he had all the makings of a superstar. For some who saw him at the start of the journey, like ex-Maluti stalwart Rankati, the world has, up until this point, only seen a fraction of Lorch’s capabilities despite the player being 30.

That short-lived cult status after his goal eliminated Egypt in the AFCON Last 16 at the continental championships in the North African country in June and July 2019 was just a glimpse.

While Ramoreboli admits they sometimes fall out with his prodigy, he says his best moment was the day Lorch came to show him the PSL Footballer of the Season and the Players’ Player miniature trophies that capped the 2018/19 season when he helped Bucs to finish second behind champions Mamelodi Sundowns.

That came after his impressive statistics of 15 goals in 40 matches in all competitions, including five assists. But he has yet to replicate that form.

Overall, ‘Nyoso’, whose reputation was recently blighted by a gender-based violence [GBV] conviction, featured 176 times for Bucs, scoring 34 and assisting 30 times.

Perhaps the switch to Sundowns offers Lorch a fresh canvas to paint a new masterpiece with his footballing abilities.

Since joining Sundowns, Lorch has already made his mark with a goal and an assist in his first three games across all competitions.

RELATED STORY: Lorch and Kekana strikes seal Sundowns victory over Nouadhibou

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