In addition to central defender Mathiane’s suspension, Arrows will miss influential midfielder Wayde Jooste when they tackle Bucs at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Jooste and his captain were cautioned in last week’s Nedbank Cup semi-final 1-0 defeat to the same opponent in KwaMashu, and are suspended today.
There was no such thing as being third time lucky last weekend. In their third meeting against Pirates this season – they had already lost to them in the league’s first round and in the Telkom Knockout – Arrows hit the bar with an optional time free kick, besides missing other scoring opportunities in a one-sided second half.
Now without Mathiane and Jooste, as well as veteran midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi, who is injured, Arrows must play above themselves for victory and a possible top-eight finish.
The teams have enjoyed contrasting fortunes this campaign, with the Durban team sitting in ninth spot and the Buccaneers 11th.
Arrows are a point behind eighth-placed Ajax Cape Town, whereas Pirates are a long shot to finish in the top half and qualify for next season’s MTN8 cup competition.
Mathematically it’s not beyond Pirates to retain their PSL-era record of always securing a top-eight finish.
If they beat Arrows handsomely, Platinum Stars lose or draw at SuperSport United, and Ajax lose against desperate Baroka FC, then the Soweto giants could make up five goals and overtake the Cape side for eighth position.
It will be interesting to see which Pirates team pitch up. In the league they are winless and goalless in their last four outings, and their last away league win was in November at Chippa United.
If they save their best for the Nedbank Cup final against SuperSport United at the same venue next month, then Arrows could bank a rare win.
For Abafana Bes’thende to secure a top-eight spot, the odds are smaller. If they win, and either Ajax or Maritzburg United lose, then Arrows will play in the MTN8.
The Team of Choice are in a favourable position to reach the top eight for the second time in their history. A draw against Bloemfontein Celtic at the Harry Gwala Stadium should be sufficient.
A draw will also suit their opponents. A point will take the Bloemfontein boys three clear of second-bottom Highlands Park, and with a goal difference advantage of six goals to boot.
In terms of individual battles, the league’s top-scorer race has Cape Town City’s Lebogang Manyama on 13 goals, one ahead of Tendai Ndoro of Pirates.