Johannesburg: The current situation facing Orlando Pirates in the Premiership has to be one of the more fascinating in the domestic game.
The Buccaneers are second-from-bottom of the league standings, but if they were to win their six games in hand on the leaders, they would be four points clear at the top of the table.
The Buccaneers’ African Champions League campaign has caused this strange skewing of the state of affairs, success creating mathematical problems for Bucs coach Roger de Sa.
“What I have tried to do is average out the points per game,” said De Sa yesterday.
“What is more realistic (than leading by four points) right now is that we are there in the top four, but to catch up we have to get points. It is always difficult with games in hand, but we have put ourselves in this situation and now we have to catch up.”
The first target for Pirates is victory in their final two games before the mid-season break, at home to the University of Pretoria this evening, and Golden Arrows on Sunday.
Pirates certainly bounced back from their Telkom Knockout final defeat to Platinum Stars last weekend in some style, hammering Dikwena 3-0 in Phokeng, to put them in fine spirits heading into tonight’s game.
“We are (in good spirits), but you can’t take too much from one game,” said De Sa.
“I think Tuks were not particularly good against Chiefs (they lost 1-0 on Monday night), but they make it difficult, they are always out there to spoil a good performance.”
Tuks, indeed, struggled against Chiefs, a continuation of their away form all season, where they have picked up just one point on the road.
“We have got to believe we can get a result in Orlando,” said assistant coach Sammy Troughton.
“Our away form has not been good, we seem to have switched from last season. After Pirates’ impressive performance (against Stars) it is going to be tough. But we have to believe, the second half performance (against Chiefs) has to give us a bit of a lift. We didn’t get hammered so we have to take certain aspects from the game.”
In contrast, Pirates are looking to pick up their home form, having lost two of their three league games played in Orlando this season.
“I set myself a target of nine points from our last three league games,” said De Sa.
“But there is no surety (of that). We have done better away from home in all competitions and this will be a challenge again.”
De Sa does seem likely to continue with the same side that dismantled Stars, where Kermit Erasmus led the line quite brilliantly.
“If you watched the first 20 minutes I thought we were back to our best the way we knocked the ball around,” said De Sa.
“After that the heat took over and the guys played it out, it was almost impossible to carry on. We could have been four or five up but we saved out legs for tomorrow and Sunday.”
If Pirates’ legs do fire over the next few days, they might be several points behind the leaders, but it will be impossible to discount them from the title race. - The Star