One of Orlando Pirates’ biggest challenges during this hectic but fairy tale period is that the big games just keep coming.
From Al Ahly to Zamalek, Kaizer Chiefs and Platinum Stars in the MTN8 – before facing Esperance – the Buccaneers have done extremely well to match their opponents, showing hardly any signs of fatigue as they juggle playing in the Africans Champions League, local knockout competitions and the Premiership.
Midfielder Oupa Manyisa said that the big matches were something the players had always dreamed of, so complaining about the schedule was the last thing on their minds.
“It’s nice playing in these big games,” said Manyisa. “As youngsters growing up we wanted to play against teams like Al Ahly and Zamalek.
“We also wanted to play in the Soweto derby because these are big matches and we will always remember them. Now we have the chance to do that. We have got to play, so we can’t complain about it because it’s what we have always wanted.”
This afternoon’s Soweto derby against Amakhosi will take place at FNB Stadium, kicking off at 3.30pm.
“This is another big game for us,” added the diminutive midfielder. “They (Chiefs) are a good team and have been doing well. We have to focus on what’s coming up on the weekend and forget about previous results.”
Ever present in the side, Manyisa said that Pirates would be buoyed by striker Lennox Bacela’s scoring form.
Bacela, once of Bloemfontein Celtic, has proved some of his critics wrong since joining the Buccaneers. On Wednesday he smashed a hat-trick to sink Golden Arrows in the Telkom Knockout quarter-finals.
Manyisa said he was hoping that Bacela and strike partner Kermit Erasmus, who finally got the monkey off his back with his first goal for the Buccaneers against Arrows, would find a chink in the Amakhosi armour.
“For us it’s a blessing. He (Bacela) is scoring goals. We just have to keep on giving him good service so that he can score more.
“Erasmus finally scored, so we are hoping he can keep on scoring goals for us.”
Pirates’ amazing run to the Champions League final has made them the talk of the town, but Chiefs’ George Lebese said that Amakhosi were on a mission to match what their rivals were doing.
“We have been hearing a lot about Pirates obviously, and it just makes us aware of what we are going to be dealing with on the weekend,” he said.
“We have been told that we are not playing so well and we know that and we know we need to work harder. Our opponents are winning games, they are in the Champions League final, so we also want to match them. We want to win games and win cups. We need to stay focused on the game.”
Lebese has become a key player for Chiefs and showed his value when he whipped in a cross for striker Lehlohonolo Majoro to convert and win the Black Label Cup for Amakhosi in July. Lebese added that he wanted to continue growing and to improve his game.
“I’m not even halfway to where I think I should be, but I am working hard. Hopefully I will reach my potential.”
Chiefs are in fourth place with 11 points in the league. Pirates are at the bottom of the table with just three points from two matches as they continue to play catch-up. – Independent on Saturday