Pitso doubts if Pirates will challenge for title

Sundowns attacker Themba Zwane, seen here challenged by Wydad's Badr Gaddarine, will be hoping his team see off the CAF Champions League holders this weekend.
Sundowns attacker Themba Zwane, seen here challenged by Wydad's Badr Gaddarine, will be hoping his team see off the CAF Champions League holders this weekend.
Image: Aubrey Kgakatsi/BackpagePix

Fresh from lifting the Absa Premiership, Pitso Mosimane has all but dismissed the prospect of Orlando Pirates mounting a successful championship bid next season, questioning if they have the resilience to compete on all fronts.

Pirates will end the season in second place, guaranteeing a return to continental football, after their title challenge fizzled out last weekend with a defeat at Cape Town City, while Mosimane saw Mamelodi Sundowns to a record eighth title and a third of his six-year spell with victory over Ajax Cape Town.

"They have the [CAF] Champions League next year. But do they have the experience?" Mosimane asked yesterday. "Sure they have the coach [Milutin Sredojevic]. Micho knows the Champions League. But does [Thembinkosi] Lorch know it? What about [Luvuyo] Memela? And the boy from Zambia [Justin Shonga]?

"Let's face it, Pirates have been playing every seven days. Can they play every three days like us? They had enough rest this season. They were not even in the top eight. They were fresh."

Traversing the airports throughout the continent and returning to find you have a mid-week league fixture could also count against the Buccaneers, Mosimane said.

"You're in transit, on flights, then when you land you have a match two days later. Do they [Pirates] have the mentality?"

Mosimane's team are back in continental action this Saturday, beginning their Champions League group phase against defending champions Wydad Casablanca (Lucas Moripe Stadium, 9pm), who knocked Sundowns out in the quarterfinals last year. Sundowns will go into the match without their star player Percy Tau, who is serving a suspension.

But Mosimane sounded confident, saying he will still be able to field a strong team, with the departing Khama Billiat leading the attack.

"Everybody else but Percy is available. I will have Khama back at number nine."

Billiat might be playing one of his last games in the Sundowns jersey, as Mosimane expects him to depart for Qarabag, of Azerbaijan.

"That's the rumour that he's going to Qarabag. And they pay big money there. He has not renewed with us so I'm over him. I've accepted he's gone. But let's be honest, he gave us a good five years, so it's time to let go."

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