Johannesburg – It has been a long 12 weeks – 82 days to be exact – since Benni McCarthy was seen in action, and on Wednesday the Orlando Pirates striker looks set to return to the Absa Premiership when his side take on Chippa United.
Pirates confirmed on Tuesday that McCarthy had made the cut for Roger de Sa’s 18-man squad which departed for Cape Town on Tuesday for the clash against the PSL rookies, and the striker’s mere presence in the dressing room will be seen as a massive boost for the Buccaneers in a crucial Soweto Derby week.
McCarthy, who was last seen in competitive action limping off after about eight minutes in Bafana Bafana’s friendly against Brazil on September 7, spoke last week of how fully fit he has been, possibly putting pressure on Bucs trainer De Sa to consider him for selection even though the team have done well recently.
Pirates go into Wednesday’s match against battling Chippa (Athlone, 7.30pm) on the back of an impressive run of four successive Premiership wins, during which they scored 10 times, meaning McCarthy was not necessarily missed as he recovered from a hamstring strain.
De Sa kept on postponing the veteran striker’s return, reasoning he would not risk him as a hamstring tear could recur, but with Saturday’s derby against rivals Kaizer Chiefs looming, the Pirates coach seems to have run out of reasons to exclude Benni given his remarkable performance in South Africa’s biggest football match.
McCarthy was the main difference when the Pirates and Chiefs last met in an official match – a league tie in March – scoring a brace in Bucs’ 3-2 win.
He also broke Amakhosi’s hearts in the pre-season Carling Cup in July, netting a late equaliser to send the match into a penalty shootout which, again, Pirates won.
Last week, McCarthy seemed to force De Sa’s hand by declaring himself fully fit and ready, given ample space on the Pirates website to state that the only reason he was not playing was because he hadn’t been given an opportunity.
“I did a lot of physical training so that I could be ready and now I feel much better physically. It has been a while since I last played, so I just want to get back on the field,” McCarthy said then, adding “it’s up to the technical team. As far as I’m concerned I’m ready to play.”
Also returning tonight is midfielder Andile Jali, but Pirates will miss Siyabonga Sangweni and Sifiso Myeni, both of whom are serving a one-match ban.
Striker Takesure Chinyama has also been ruled out through injury.
Chippa v Pirates, Athlone; Wits v Tuks, Bidvest Stadium; Leopards v AmaZulu, Peter Mokaba Stadium; FS Stars v Sundowns, Charles Mopeli Stadium – The Star