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Jele: Knockout derby will be a different ball game

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Pirates have found themselves in a roller-coaster ride.

HAPPY Jele, the Orlando Pirates skipper, is not reading too much into his team’s inconsistent outings so far, instead he’s hoping their next assignment will be the charm that will change their fortunes.

From the dizzy heights of being tipped as red-hot favourites to stop the dominance Mamelodi Sundowns have had in domestic football, Pirates have found themselves in a roller-coaster ride.

That, however, has happened under the stewardship of the young coach, Rhulani Mokwena, who is still finding a balance between being a father figure and calling the big shots in the dugout and dressing room following the resignation of Serbian coach Micho Sredojevic at the start of the season.

So far, Mokwena has guided his troops to a disappointing eighth spot on the Premiership standings, having won three matches, drawn three and lost three.

But following a surprise defeat to rookies Stellenbosch FC last weekend, the Sea Robbers steered their ship back to winning ways midweek through a win over Highlands Park away from home.

In the bigger scheme of things though, that encounter served as a curtain-raiser to their Telkom Knockout quarter-final clash against sworn enemies Kaizer Chiefs at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban tomorrow (3pm).

Next level

“This will be a different ball game; we just have to play the game and not the event.

“It’s important for us as that will take the team to the next level, which is the semi-final,” Jele said. “We have to go there and fight as a team.

“There’s always pressure when you play for Orlando Pirates, it’s a big brand that wants to win trophies.

“So, we just have to focus on Saturday’s match, win and get to the next stage,” said the veteran defender.

A win in the Soweto derby would not only take the Buccaneers closer to ending their five-year trophy barren run, but it would buy some time for Mokwena, who has to find a game plan that will give them a consistent run of form.

“I can’t comment about the coach. But for me, I just have to perform on the field and for the badge.

“It’s very important for the team to get results,” Jele said.

Having finished as runners-up to Sundowns in the last two seasons, this season was set to be Pirates’ shot at redemption – winning the Premiership title.

To achieve that they went about their business straight and narrow during the close season transfer window, signing a number of players that they deemed fitting to give them oomph, while those that were not part of the bigger picture were released.

Notably though, it’s been striker Tshegofatso Mabasa who has fitted like a glove, scoring five goals in nine domestic appearances so far.

While it’s too early to say that fellow newbies have succumbed to the pressure of playing for a club of Pirates’ stature, but there are those who have been stuttering in their adaption.

Last season’s Zambian Footballer of the Year, Austine Muwowo, has only made one appearance, while Bongani Sam, who was signed from Bloemfontein Celtic, is yet to make an appearance.

“There are a lot of new guys that came in and others that left, so we obviously had to start afresh,” Jele said. “Some (of the new guys) still need to understand the game model of the team. But so far, so good.

“I am happy with how we’ve played and the results will come.”