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De Sa defends his troops

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Orlando Pirates coach Roger De Sa.

Johannesburg – Roger de Sa has called for calm after Orlando Pirates sunk to two successive, chaotic defeats which have put him under pressure for the first time since taking over the club’s coaching reins.

Pirates have let in seven goals in two fixtures against Moroka Swallows and lower division side Maluti FET College, leaving some among the Ghost questioning if De Sa is good enough to lead them to the defence of the league title they won two seasons in a row.

But the Buccaneers’ coach is unfazed about the latest setbacks, vowing his men have the ability to bounce back even as they now face the prospect of a barren season because they only have the Absa Premiership to play for. Wednesday’s defeat saw them stay two points behind rivals Kaizer Chiefs, with 11 matches to go.

“One bad game doesn’t mean the players are suddenly bad. We had gone 13 league games without defeat before (the match against Swallows),” De Sa said following Bucs’ loss to the Birds, during which they threw away a two-goal cushion to succumb 3-2 at Dobsonville.

Pirates still have the best defence in the Premiership, with just 12 goals conceded, but that they could not protect a two-goal lead this week, coupled with how they collapsed to lose 4-1 against Maluti – their biggest defeat in seven years – has had their supporters fearing the worst, not least with next week’s Soweto Derby looming.

De Sa acknowledged the absence of Siyabonga Sangweni has hit his team hard, but the Bafana Bafana defender should return next week.

“It’s been a bit of a blow to be without Sangweni,” De Sa said. “He came back from the Africa Cup of Nations with a niggle. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t tell when he’ll be back. But he’s scheduled to resume training (today), and we’ll see next week if we can have him against Bloemfontein Celtic (on Wednesday).”

For this weekend’s African Champions League second leg match away to Djabal of the Comoros, De Sa will again have to make do with a second string defence comprising Ayanda Gcaba, Happy Jele, Lucky Lekgwathi and Thabo Matlaba, although they are not expected to be stretched as they have a comfortable 5-0 lead from the first leg.

“In Gcaba’s defence, he’s a leftback, not a centrehalf. But I have had no choice but to move him there because we are thin. We have Sangweni, Robyn Johannes and Rooi Mahamutsa all out through injury. We did try to sign new defenders (during the January transfer window) but it was not possible.”

Compounding De Sa’s problems is the fact that Sifiso Myeni picked up a serious knee injury, which the Pirates coach expects will rule the midfielder out for the rest of the season. “Again, I’m not a doctor, but the injury looked bad. I think Myeni is out for the season.”

Meanwhile, Swallows coach Zeca Marques challenged his charges to sustain their new-found momentum going into the weekend match against AmaZulu at Dobsonville. “It was great to win against Pirates, but we need to reproduce these performances in the remaining matches,” Marques said. – The Star


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