JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates might be high on confidence after bagging three points against Polokwane City at the Peter Mokaba Stadium on Tuesday night; however, coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic refused to get carried away ahead of their next encounter.
Pirates’ next assignment will be away to PSL champions Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus on Saturday. Although both teams have had unconvincing starts to the season, the Bucs have made the most of their recent chances as they currently sit at the summit of the league standings whereas Sundowns are in the top 10.
“First of all, we are far from being a well-oiled machine,”Sredojevic said after their 2-1 victory over Rise and Shine. “We have a huge space for improvement and development. We shall not comment anything about anyone in front. We shall now collect the situation of injuries and focus on the things in the team because we had two tough away matches. After that we’ll then think ahead of us.”
For the first time since the 2014-15 season, the Bucs have gone 10 matches unbeaten. They also make the trip to Pretoria having won their last four matches; scoring eight goals while conceding just three.
Striker Justin Shonga will - too - be heading to Loftus high on confidence after getting the monkey off his back with a sublime free-kick on Tuesday. While Shonga was in hot-form for Zambia during the recent 2019 Africa Cup on Nations qualifiers, the last time he had scored for the Sea Robbers was in their season opener against Highlands Park on 4 August.
“(With all due) respect to the people that think our players are machines, I want to tell them that they are also human beings with senses, feelings and emotions,”Sredojevic explained. “As such, it was not pleasant to look at Justin Shonga missing that penalty and chances (against Kaizer Chiefs) and immediately branded in a way to kill his confidence.
We, as the technical team and his teammates have confidence and belief in him. In the last three matches, he’s had three assists and a goal. We are hoping his confidence continues to grow.”
The last time Sundowns played Pirates at Loftus, the Bucs won 3-1, as they avenged their 6-0 hammering from the previous campaign. Goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane was nominated as the best player on the day as he kept Sundowns’ potent attack at bay for much of the game.
However, Siyabonga Mpotshane has been the entrusted shot-stopper for the big games this season. Mpotshane started ahead of Mabokgwane in their 2-1 win in the Soweto derby - two weeks ago - while the latter made two successive appearances prior to that clash.
“In the game, we have one goalkeeper physically but four spiritually,” Sredojevic said on the notion that Mpotshane might return between the sticks against Sundowns as Mabokgwane started on Tuesday.
“It’s a pride that we are feeling at Orlando Pirates that four goalkeepers are like brothers.”