PSL / 19 December 2019, 11:00am / Matshelane Mamabolo
JOHANNESBURG – This is not how it was supposed to be. Orlando Pirates in seventh place going into the Christmas recess? Someone clearly misread the script.
This, after all was the season when the Mighty Buccaneers were meant to reign supreme, isn’t it?
Following two successive seasons of playing bridesmaid to Mamelodi Sundowns, the belief was that Pirates would make it third time lucky and finally be the belle of the ball.
And when they won the traditional season-opening Carling Black Label Cup with a 2-0 beating of arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs, you foresaw a fantastic season ahead for the team that had made arguably the best signings going into the new campaign.
Not that they needed to, for such had been their showing in the previous season that they looked to merely need an injection of confidence and solidity at the back plus a bit of luck to finally get the championship their impressive play seemed to so deserve.
After all, in both past seasons they had run Mamelodi Sundowns close - losing out by five and then two points respectively. Progress.
Fast forward to December and the Pirates that was supposed to dominate is being dominated as they huff and puff down in mid-table obscurity.
It would not be so bad were Chiefs not enjoying such a huge lead in the race for the Absa Premiership title. Amakhosi are sitting pretty at the top of the table and have a massive 17 points more than Pirates in their kitty after both teams have played 13 matches.
That too would not be too much of a concern had the Sea Robbers managed to maintain their long-standing superiority over the bitter enemy.
But no, an unbeaten run that started in December 2014 was brought to an end in this particular season when Chiefs finally won the Soweto Derby - not once but actually twice in successive weekends.
The defeat via a penalty shoot-out in the Telkom Knockout was perhaps not that hard to take. After all, officially the match was a draw. But when they went down 3-2 the very following week at the FNB Stadium, you knew that a season that had already gone rot was fast becoming one to forget.
Granted coach Micho Sredojevic’s sudden resignation ‘for personal reasons’ was always going to have a negative impact on the club. The man was the reason for the club’s change of fortune after all.
But surely Rhulani Mokwena was more than capable of steering the ship. Here was a young coach with massive experience as an assistant being thrust into the role at a club he literally grew up at. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, it would appear everything.
For all his ability to get Pirates playing good attacking football, eloquent pre and post-match analysis and links with some of the world’s top coaches, Mokwena just could not get Pirates the victories.
He has since been replaced by unknown German coach Josef Zinnbauer whose record does not inspire much confidence - at least in yours truly.
Will he help turn things around for Pirates going into the second half of the season? Chairman Irvin Khoza clearly believes so. But then again he also believed Kjell Jonevret could, didn’t he?
The Ghost will be hoping the German delivers. You can bet they would rather be in the grave than witness that other German deliver the championship for the enemy.