The Soweto giants have taken a step back, even losing their dominance over Kaizer Chiefs, who eliminated them in the quarter-finals of the Telkom Knockout
RHULANI Mlungisi Mokwena cut a calm figure at Orlando Stadium after yet another disappointing result which was compounded by Happy Jele’s sending off, meaning Orlando Pirates will be without their captain in the Soweto Derby on Saturday.
The goalless draw with Maritzburg United means the Buccaneers have only two wins from their last nine league games. It’s a desperate situation for a team meant to be fighting for the championship this season after coming close and pushing Mamelodi Sundowns until the end in the last two seasons.
A step back
But the Soweto giants have taken a step back, even losing their dominance over Kaizer Chiefs, who eliminated them in the quarter-finals of the Telkom Knockout in Durban last week.
Amakhosi will host Pirates at FNB Stadium confident with Jele and Mthokozi Dube, key members of Pirates’ defence, suspended for the Absa Premiership encounter.
“It seems like the universe is asking me to live up to my name, Mlungisi (the one who fixes things),” Mokwena said. “Because last week, we got the suspension of Lorch and Dube was sent off.
“At the end of the game the universe said, ‘lungisa Mlungisi (fix it, Mlungisi)’. We go to this game against Maritzburg and we get a red card, uMlungisi kumele alungise futhi (Mlungisi has to fix things again).
“It’s not a blow because we’ve got 34 players at Orlando Pirates, 34 capable players. Like they say, one man’s poison is another man’s meat.
“Hopefully the one who gets the opportunity takes the opportunity and stakes a berth in the starting line-up moving forward.”
Pirates were uninspiring in their display against the Team of Choice. In the brief moments they looked threatening, they were met with a brick wall in the form of Richard Ofori.
The Ghanaian goalkeeper was solid, producing a Man-of-the-Match performance that helped a flat Maritzburg return to KwaZulu-Natal with a point.
Mokwena admits that it was hard for him to ensure that his players play without the Soweto Derby in the back of their minds.
“It’s very difficult. They are human beings,” Mokwena said.
“They know what the derby means to the club, to themselves for their profile as football players. It’s very difficult sometimes to try to make sure that they understand the importance of today’s match (against Maritzburg).
“It’s clear, in certain moments I could see that like in the song where they say that your body is here with me but your mind is on the other side of town, their bodies were here with me but their minds were on the other side of town at FNB Stadium.”
This derby will go a long way in shaping the season for Pirates. Should they lose again, it would compound the pressure Mokwena is under after he was thrown in at the deep end following Micho Sredojevic’s abrupt resignation.
But should they get a positive result, it would be a much-needed boost for a team low on confidence.