Roger De Sa has admitted that Orlando Pirates are looking forward to some time off after a “crazy four months”, but has warned that his side must not lose their focus today as they host Golden Arrows in their final game of the year.
The visit of Arrows to Orlando in the Absa Premiership will be the Buccaneers 27th game of the season in all competitions (26 if one discounts the Carling Black Label Cup), as Pirates have lost an African Champions League final, an MTN8 final and a Telkom Knockout final, in the course of a busy second half of the year.
“It has been a crazy four months. When we started the campaign no one gave us a chance in Africa,” said De Sa. “Reaching three cup finals and not winning … leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, but how many teams would like to have got where we did?”
Pirates must now continue the long process of attempting to clamber up the league table, with six games in hand on leaders Kaizer Chiefs, and 14 points behind.
Pirates have done well to win their two league games since their Telkom Knockout final loss to Platinum Stars, and now aim to finish on a high against struggling Arrows.
“We set a target after the cup final (to get nine points out of nine),” said De Sa. “In the cup we did well against Arrows, we ran them over totally, but it will be different this time around. We will have to sharpen up and get our minds off the Christmas break.”
A Lennox Bacela hat-trick helped Pirates thump Arrows 4-0 in Orlando on October 23 in the Telkom Knockout quarter-finals, Mark Harrison’s first game in charge of the Durban side. After that, Harrison did pick up a couple of decent home league wins over Moroka Swallows and Maritzburg United, but Arrows have now lost four on the trot, and are rock bottom of the table, with 10 defeats in their first 14 games.
Even luck is not on their side, a dodgy penalty enabling Kaizer Chiefs to sneak an away win in Durban in midweek.
De Sa’s Pirates, however, may well have to play better today than they did against AmaTuks in their 1-0 win on Thursday, where they were never at their best, snatching a win through an opportunistic strike by Oupa Manyisa. De Sa admitted frustration at times with his side’s complacency. He singled out left-back Thabo Matlaba for criticism after the Tuks game.
“It creeps into the game, we can be a bit complacent, and there is a level of arrogance,” he said.
“Our decision-making is poor at times. You don’t expect a top player like Thabo to make the mistakes he makes. You don’t expect that from the best left-back in the country. There are areas to improve for all of us.”
As for Amakhosi, they will seek to emphasise their position atop the Premier League this afternoon, as they travel to Durban to face AmaZulu. Stuart Baxter’s side are on a roll, the Arrows win their fifth in a row in the league, their defence of their title gathering momentum by the day.
Amakhosi will be without Reneilwe Letsholonyane for the game at Usuthu, after he limped out of the Arrows match.
Baxter suggested after the Arrows game that Chiefs were facing a different task this season, with teams denying them space going forward.
“This season we have to pick our way through a lot compared to last season.
“I think we are doing well especially in our movements and possession. The players are approaching the new challenge very well,” Baxter told the official Chiefs website. - Sunday Independent