at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Cavin Johnson has become a pain in the neck for his fellow PSL coaches who now have to come up with intricate plans to overcome his well-organised and gutsy Platinum Stars.
Johnson’s stars have become so much of a threat that Roger de Sa did not want to take any chances as he rested some of his key men in Pirates’ 5-0 win over Djabal in the CAF Champions League first leg, preliminary round at the weekend with one eye firmly on Pirates’ match with third-placed Stars tomorrow night in Orlando.
Stars thrashed Ajax Cape Town 3-0 on Saturday to warm up for their showdown with the Buccaneers – a game De Sa watched on TV before the Djabal match – and it seems Johnson’s men have given the former Bidvest Wits coach reason to worry ahead of tomorrow night’s tie.
“We watched them today (Saturday) and we started planning ahead already. That’s the reason we rested some of our players because of the game that’s coming up.
“We know it’s a tough one, they are on fire at the moment there’s no doubt it. We need to change our focus now to the PSL now. As soon as the final whistle blows you start thinking about your next match and start planning ahead,” the former Bidvest Wits coach said.
De Sa’s first game in charge of the Pirates ship was in a 1-0 victory over Stars at Royal Bafokeng Stadium last year, but their opponents have become a force in the league since then, going from ordinary club to championship challenging outfit under Johnson and are now level on points with Pirates (37).
“They (Stars) have turned this title race into a three-horse race and well done to them,” De Sa said. “We beat them away and now we bring them here (Orlando Stadium). This has become a little bit of a fortress for Pirates. It’s now what, 12 games unbeaten? So hopefully we will continue that way.”
De Sa says Pirates have set themselves a target of reaching 62 points this season and believes that should be enough to win the championship.
However, the Buccaneers could find themselves under a lot of pressure while playing catch-up in the league due to their Champions League commitments.
Pirates have a game in hand on top-of-the-table Kaizer Chiefs who they trail by two points, but De Sa says he is more concerned about what happens at the end of the campaign.
“I’ll give you a perfect example. When Bruce Fordyce won so many Comrades Marathons, he did not worry about the people ahead of him. He just ran a certain time at a certain pace. He kept going and had a target time to reach the end. And he won eight in a row.
“So for us, we set a target of so many points by the time we finish the 30 games. And we are well on target. We just have to keep doing our job. If you reach 62 points, you win the championship. We think that’s the target that’s got to be achieved.”
De Sa has singled out veteran Benson Mhlongo, a player he worked with during his days at Wits, as a man key to Stars’ success this season and someone who will keep the club fighting to the death so that the visitors get something out of tomorrow’s match.
“They’ve got a style of play that’s suits them and the players that suit their style of play. Henrico Botes has hit a purple patch and their wingers are pretty good. And he (Johnson) has midfielders that are very mobile and create problems. At the back, I have no doubt Benson has brought in great stability. He’s a hell of a player, I’ve coached him. He will keep the team fighting non-stop and he leads by example.
“The saddest part of it is to see an empty stadium in an area like that. That team should be supported. I just hope the people of Rustenburg support them. They are playing good football,” said De Sa.
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