JOHANNESBURG – While the bitter taste of last season’s disastrous camp lingers on at Orlando Pirates, the club has gradually improved, but coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic still describes the Buccaneers as rooibos without sugar.
The Buccaneers have been missing one key ingredient in their turnaround, goals. Pirates have scored just 10 goals in their 14 league matches.
Only the bottom two sides, Platinum Stars and Bidvest Wits, have scored fewer goals than Sredojevic’s men. But the Buccaneers find themselves in second place thanks to an improved defensive display that was their Achilles heel last season.
“We want to be one hard to read football book, unpredictable,” Sredojevic said.
“Our goal-scoring chances come from dodging offsides, crosses, coming through the middle and counter-pressing. We could score more goals from set-pieces. This is a process.
“I believe in the players that we have and the work that we are doing.
“I believe that we shall reach the standard that will see us get over the mental block and win more consistently. The kind of football we play deserves wins. This kind of football sends a message to other teams that we are a team to be respected.”
Pirates will look to get respect and three points from Free State Stars at Goble Park tonight.
But Ea Lla Koto have been a “disrespectful” bunch under Luc Eymael. They stunned SuperSport United in their last league match at the same venue to hand Matsatsantsa a Pitori only their second loss in the Absa Premiership this campaign.
Stars ran the Caf Confederation Cup finalists ragged.
The Bethlehem-based side exposed SuperSport’s slow central defence pairing by playing the ball behind them with the quick and strong Siphelele Mthembu ready to pounce.
The Buccaneers will need to bring their A-game in defence against an enterprising team.
Stars will be without former Pirates’ left back Patrick Phungwayo who is rejuvenated under Eymael with regular game time. In the place of the suspended Phungwayo the Belgian coach is likely to field Katlego Mashego.
Both teams will be driven to end the year on a high before the intense second round resumes early next month.
Despite their improvement, the Buccaneers are still behind their target of collecting a minimum of 10 points in each set of five matches.
Pirates have collected just 20 points in 14 matches. What will give the club confidence is that even though they are still a work in progress, they have kept up with the leading pack.
Mamelodi Sundowns are five points ahead of the Soweto side, even though the Brazilians have two games in hand.
“I have a feeling that I am not coaching human beings but I am coaching lions that really respect this badge and the jersey,” Sredojevic said.
“They are giving everything. I have seen their expression and body language. As I like to say to the players in a joking way, this country is a country of good hospitality.
“When someone comes, you serve them your world famous rooibos tea. But you serve it without sugar inside. (That’s how our performance is like, it’s good but is missing sugar).
“I regret us not getting results, but our performances have been good.”