Tapelo Xoki aims to write Orlando Pirates’ name in CAF lights

Orlando Pirates captain Tapelo Xoki scored a brace in their last match against lower-division side Crystal Lake. Photo: BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates captain Tapelo Xoki scored a brace in their last match against lower-division side Crystal Lake. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Feb 29, 2024


Orlando Pirates are determined to stop at nothing to ensure that they move up the DStv Premiership table in their quest for a ticket to CAF Champions League participation next year.

Currently fifth on the table with 26 points from 17 matches, the Sea Robbers trail Cape Town City and SuperSport United, their main rivals for the runners-up berth behind the high-flying Mamelodi Sundowns – who should be crowned champions once again – by four points.

Fourth-placed Stellenbosch FC are a point richer than Pirates, with a game in hand.

There are still enough matches in the campaign, though, for Jose Riveiro and his men to pull off a second-round upsurge, similar to the one that saw them come from behind to finish second last season.

But they need to do so as a matter of urgency if they are to send a message to their rivals that the fight for a Champions League spot is going to be an intense one.

Captain and defender Tapelo Xoki said he and his teammates are going to do exactly that, starting with Saturday’s clash at Polokwane City (3.30pm kick-off).

Winless in their past two league matches, Xoki said they are nevertheless in high spirits following their impressive 6-0 hammering of lower-division side Crystal Lake in the Nedbank Cup.

“It is not going to be an easy game because they lost their last match, and they will be like a wounded animal in playing at home. We have not won in the last two matches, and we need to get back to winning.”

Having scored the equalising penalty in the 1-1 league draw at Sundowns a fortnight ago, and then snatching a brace against Crystal Lake, Xoki’s confidence is at an all-time high.

He said he and his teammates understand the stature of the club they represent, and they are willing to break a leg to ensure the Buccaneers mix it with the continent’s big boys.

“For a big club like ours, it is a no-brainer that we must be in CAF. We had the disappointment of this season, and we have to make a correction of that.”

He knows, though, that they have to put in the hard work to qualify for continental football.

“At the beginning of every season, we know we have to start and be in the CAF competition because that is the responsibility we are entrusted with.”

But for now, the focus is on Saturday’s league clash at the Peter Mokaba Stadium.

“We will take it one game at a time, and next up is Polokwane. We have to make sure we prepare well, go there with a positive mindset of trying to get our campaign in the league back on track,” Xoki said.

“Polokwane are like a wounded animal because they lost their last match, and they are playing at home.”

As captain, Xoki will once again be expected to play a crucial role, as he has done in recent matches, the defender from Cape Town not only tightening things up at the back, but also chipping in with goals.