Pirates out to dispel inconsistency notion, end 2023 on a high against Stellies

27 December 2023 - 13:59
By Marc Strydom
Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro during the DStv Premiership match against SuperSport United at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro during the DStv Premiership match against SuperSport United at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Saturday.

Orlando Pirates will be out to dispel the notion that they take two steps back for every three forward in the DStv Premiership as they end 2023 with another tough encounter against Stellenbosch FC at Orlando Stadium on Friday night.

Bucs will be out to stamp their authority at home on Steve Barker’s Carling Knockout champions in a match that can define Pirates' mood and affect the perception that they remain inconsistent in the league as they enter the six-week Africa Cup of Nations break.

Pirates, most pundits’ favourites to mount a stronger challenge in the Premiership than last season’s runners-up placing by 16 points to Mamelodi Sundowns, disappointingly trail the Brazilians by nine points at the halfway stage. Sundowns, who meet Moroka Swallows at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday (7.30pm), also have three games in hand.

Just as Pirates looked to be gathering steam with six matches unbeaten, including five wins, it came crashing down with Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to second-placed SuperSport United’s young guns in Polokwane, to drop from third to fourth place after 15 games.

It was no surprise Bucs coach Jose Riveiro, who has been at pains to stress his team are not cup specialists despite their three successive knockout trophies, described the result as painful.

“It’s painful and that’s a good thing that it’s painful,” he said.

“It’s painful for all of us that we were winning a lot of games recently and it [losing against SuperSport] is not helping us because we are a winning team. We have to win games.

“It’s not in our minds that it’s normal to lose every six games — we want to win every game.

“It was not possible for different reasons.”

Some of those “reasons” Riveiro was reluctant to discuss were Shandre Campbell’s opener for SuperSport should have been ruled offside and Pirates goalkeeper Melusi Buthelezi’s errors contributed to the other two goals.

So the scoreline flattered United. That was not much solace to Riveiro and his team.

The coach, asked about Buthelezi giving the ball away to Campbell for the teen’s second goal and SuperSport’s third, chose not to criticise his keeper.

“Professional football players have to perform and sometimes make mistakes. We all make mistakes in our professions.

“We are not superheroes, we don’t do everything perfectly. It was a mistake, but football is a game of mistakes.

“We are looking at the keeper, but we also made [defensive ball-watching] mistakes in the first goal and [conceding] the first goal was more serious than the last goal. Even the second goal, from the set piece [where Buthelezi came and missed as Bradley Grobler scored] was more serious than the third one.

“So nothing to say. Everyone tried their best. We played good football, but they got the three points.”

Pirates’ three clashes against Stellenbosch in 2023-2024 have all been tough.

Bucs lost their opening league clash away against Stellies 1-0 in August. In the two-legged MTN8 semifinal, Bucs won 2-1 away, but lost 1-0 at home to progress on away goals.

Barker’s competitive young team are in fifth place in the Premiership.