“The derby is a special game for us and the supporters. We’ll do our best to get the three points but our focus and the club is for next season, where we need to improve”
Orlando Pirates’ coach Josef Zinnbauer has downplayed his team’s chances of challenging for the Premiership title, tipping rivals and their next opponents Kaizer Chiefs as favourites to scoop the league honours in May.
Having held the top office for the better part of the season, Chiefs are duly the favourites to win the Premiership title. But there’s been new developments in the Premiership race in recent months, such as Pirates also taking the baton as one of the teams that could cause a late upset on Amakhosi.
The Buccaneers got their season off to a patchy start as they floated in the bottom-half of the log standings in the first half of the campaign. But since the arrival of Zinnbauer in December, there’s been a sense of belief and desire to win within the team.
The Sea Robbers are, subsequently, third on the log standings with 39 points, six behind table leaders Chiefs, who have a game in hand. The Buccaneers have a slight advantage, though, having won their last six league matches and being the well-rested team after not playing competitively for over two weeks.
But coach Zinnbauer, who’s had the ‘The Ghost’ eating from the palm of his hand in recent weeks, says their target is to finish as high up as they can, while they’ll aim for silverware next season.
“The derby is a special game for us and the supporters. We’ll do our best to get the three points but our focus and the club is for next season, where we need to improve,” said Zinnbauer who annihilated his team’s chances of winning the league title.
“They (Chiefs) have six points and one game more, which could amount to nine points if they win. That’s a lot of points. Mamelodi Sundowns still have a lot of points. And Bidvest Wits could still come closer if they win their games.
“But Chiefs has the best chance.”
Despite being modest about his team making a late breakthrough in the Premiership race, plaudits should go to the German for how he’s revamped the Sea Robbers’ ship to run like a well-oiled machine in recent weeks.
Before Zinnbauer’s arrival, Pirates have had issues defensively, where they’ve conceded silly goals, and up front, where they’ve failed to find their killer instincts.
But enter the German and there’s been a new sense of belief all round – the team having scored more than 15 goals in the last six matches, while there’s been tremendous improvement defensively.
“We work from one game to the next game. And from the players, we’ve seen a hungrier side during training. They are special and are focusing on the derby, but we always focus on the next game,” Zinnbauer explained.
“For us as coaches, it’s about the next game but the derby is special to me as well. In the next game, you can always get three points. So come Saturday, that will be another chance for another three points.”
For tomorrow’s game (3:30pm kick-off) at the Calabash, Zinnbauer will sit for his first Soweto derby. But what spices things up is that he’ll come up against countryman Ernst Middendorp for the first time in his career, something that will also be the first of its kind for the biggest sporting event in the country.