Have Pirates turned the corner?

Orlando Pirates supporters and officials are hoping that new coach Ruud Krol has finally turned the corner after a disappointing start to the season.

Bucs will be looking for their first Absa Premiership win of the season when they host a revived Moroka Swallows in what promises to be an action-packed Soweto Derby to be played at Ellis Park on Wednesday night. Kick-off is at 7.30pm.

Krol, the former Dutch skipper, has battled with his under-performing Buccaneers, who finally notched their first win of the season when they defeated Thanda Royal Zulu (TRZ) 1-0 at the Princes Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu in a Telkom Knockout first-round tie at the weekend.

But Bucs have collected only two points from their four Premiership games and club spokesperson Mickey Modisane said: ”The chairperson [Irvin Khoza] has brought in a lot of quality players for the new coach and now it is time for him to utilise and continue from where he left off against Thanda. We all know that the Birds are playing well and are one of the form teams at the moment. But we badly need to get our league season back on track and there could be no better platform than beating Swallows at home.”

Modisane praised his supporters for the way they backed Bucs in KwaMashu against TRZ. He said: ”I am appealing to our Gauteng fans to match those efforts. Our supporters made all the difference against Thanda and the players are hoping that our 12th man will be at Ellis Park in strength.”

As luck would have it, the two Soweto giants were paired together in the quarterfinals of the Telkom Knockout next month when the farcical draw was made on Monday.

There were a lot of long faces in the Bucs camp when they found out that they will have to play the Birds twice in as many weeks.

But, added Modisane: ”We started picking up the pieces when we drew 1-1 at Ellis Park against Santos in the league, then we beat Thanda in that cup game, so now it is up to the coach to deliver our first league win and begin our road to recovery.”

Bucs will still be minus injured Cape Verde striker Adriano Pires, who missed the weekend’s win over Thanda. Krol is likely to keep the winning side and use veteran striker Gilbert Mushangazhike as the lone target man hoping that Teko Modise, Thulasizwe Mbuyane, Lebogang Mothibantwa and Dikgang Mabalane all come to the party.

Right wing Mabalane has looked the part since joining Bucs this season but the jury is still out on midfielders Mothibantwa and Mbuyane. Mothibantwa has taken time to settle since his move form Bloemfontein Celtic in the off-season, but his goal against Thanda will have done his confidence a world of good.

The spirit at Birds could not be better. Said assistant coach Zeca Marques: ”We are looking forward to playing Pirates twice. If we want to win anything this season, we have to beat clubs like Pirates, and we are ready.”

Birds showed that they mean business this year by the way they swept aside Kaizer Chiefs 2-0 in their last league match and then defeated Absa Premiership pace-setters BidVest Wits by the same margin the Knockout at the weekend.

Wits will be looking to pick up the pieces when they face out-of-sorts Mamelodi Sundowns at Rustenburg’s Olympia Park at 7.30pm on Wednesday.

Downs were shattered after going down 1-0 at their so-called Super Stadium ”slaughterhouse” against Premiership newcomers Bay United in the Knockout at the weekend, and another defeat could signal the end of the road for under-fire coach Trott Moloto.

Thanda host another in-form side, Golden Arrows, in what should be a closely fought Durban derby at Umlazi’s King Zwelithini Stadium (3.30pm). — Sapa

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