Encounters against other elite league teams will sharpen club

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

Orlando Pirates have lined up 11 friendly matches to ensure their players are razor sharp when the Absa Premiership second round campaign starts next month.

Bucs' coach, Owen "Rubberdoll" da Gama, said the planned games will be mostly against other Premiership outfits.

The aim of the games, according to Da Gama, will also help to see to it that their players are in shape during the three week-long Africa Cup of Nations break.

"The games that we have lined up will all be against South African clubs, but I'm not at liberty to name the opposition at this stage," said Da Gama yesterday.

"We have submitted our plan for the whole of January to the chairman (Irvin Khoza) for negotiations to start with the opposition that we identified.

"Pirates are not a small club, we need to do things in a professional way, our aim is to see a more hungry team in the new year.

"People always expect Pirates to do well, be it in a friendly or an official match. We cannot afford to disappoint them in any way."

With the window period now open for the registration of players, Da Gama told Sowetan that Pirates were not intending to get rid of anybody.

Pirates currently have 48 players.

"I have made some recommendations to the chairman, but the plan is to loan some of the players to other clubs," said Da Gama.

"We won't be getting rid of any player, negotiations for their loan arrangements will be done as quitely as possible.

"The same goes for the players we are earmarking to build a formidable side. It won't be easy to get quality players.

"The problem is that clubs always mention all sorts of big figures when they hear that Pirates are looking for a certain player.

"When I came to Pirates, they were at the bottom of the log. The chairman gave me a mandate to make sure the club finish the season on a respectable position.

"For me it will be great to finish in the top eight, but the higher, the better for all of us. We need to lay a solid foundation to challenge for everything next season."

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean international Gilbert "Gidza" Mushangazhike will join his new teammates at Pirates on January 12. The team return from the holidays on Monday, but will be minus Excellent Walaza and Teko Modise, who are going to Ghana for the Africa Cup of Nations.