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The title race is still wide open, says Orlando Pirates’ Deon Hotto

Deon Hotto of Orlando Pirates celebrates after scoring during their Nedbank Cup Last 32 match against AmaZulu at Orlando Stadium on 06 February 2022

FILE - Deon Hotto of Orlando Pirates celebrates after scoring during their Nedbank Cup Last 32 match against AmaZulu at Orlando Stadium on 06 February 2022. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Published Feb 15, 2022


Johannesburg — Orlando Pirates winger Deon Hotto is confident that they can close in on log leaders and champions Mamelodi Sundowns as long as there’s mutual belief that they have what it takes to churn out the needed results week in and week out.

On Monday, the Brazilians extended their lead at the top to 18 points — ahead of the second-placed Pirates who have two games in hand. Pirates have been their own worst enemies this season as they have dropped invaluable points that they shouldn’t have.

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The Bucs, though, finished the year on a high note, winning their last two games in the league. They took that momentum to the New Year, beating AmaZulu in the Nedbank Cup and JS Saoura in the Confederation Cup on Sunday.

But despite not bolstering their squad during the January transfer window, they’ll be confident that they can compete on all fronts, given the return of some of their key players such as Happy Jele and Zakhele Lepasa to full fitness.

Pirates will restart their second half of the league season on Wednesday evening when they host Golden Arrows at Orlando Stadium. And they know that if they’ll have any chance of closing in on Downs, they can’t afford to drop invaluable points.

“No, no, no. “It's not over until it's done. You have to believe. But, ja, coming to the Nedbank, it's a cup where we want to go all the way and lift it. “Definitely, yes (we have a chance). We must have the belief,” the Namibian-born winger said.

Arrows will be no pushovers though. They’ll make the trip from Durban to Soweto with a lot to prove. They are looking to recover after the shock loss to second tier division outfit Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila in the Nedbank Cup.

Moreover, this will be their second meeting with Mandla Ncikazi, the Pirates’ co-coach who led them to a record-breaking fourth spot last term. And that’s why Hotto knows that his former employers will be a tough side to break down.

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“Most definitely, we want to keep our winning momentum going into that match. Playing my former team, that’s where I started when I came to South Africa in 2014, (won’t be easy). They are a good team with great players,” he said.

“Coach (Lehlohonolo) Seema and his assistant Mabhuti Khanyeza have done well since coaching the team. But, ja, we are looking forward to the game. it’s a home game and we want to keep the home record intact and continue doing well.”

Pirates’ fate in the title race is not in their hands. But they can definitely control their destiny in the Nedbank Cup and the Confederation Cup. In the former, they’ll meet defending champions Marumo Gallants away from home later this month.

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That last 16 tie won’t be easy though. Gallants are coached by Dan “Dance” Malesela, the former Pirates’ captain who led TS Galaxy to the Nedbank Cup trophy after they beat Kaizer Chiefs in the final in 2019 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

“We want to go all the way and lift this up,” Hotto said. “We wanted a home game but we got an away one. But it’s okay, we’ll take what we got. It won’t be an easy game, playing Dan Dance. All the teams he’s coached like to keep the ball.”


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