Santos coach Boebie Solomons is more than happy to face Absa Premiership leaders Orlando Pirates when the Premier Soccer League fixtures resume at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
Santos, going quietly about their business, are sitting pretty in fifth spot with 15 points from their nine matches.
Solomons explained why he is keen to lock horns with the unbeaten Bucs in their Soweto backyard: ”I love playing teams like Pirates and so do my players because it is a huge challenge, players tend to rise to the occasion against the big clubs like Pirates and most people do not expect us to get anything out of the game. Anything would be a bonus for us.”
This will be Solomons and the People’s Team’s second trip to the newly refurbished Orlando Stadium. They drew 0-0 in the opening league match of the season against Kaizer Chiefs there in August.
”I like Orlando Stadium and I will be happy to get a point again,” said Solomons.
”A point — especially an away one — is like gold this season because the league is so tight and competitive.”
Solomons said the fact that Pirates are top of the table and still unbeaten makes this an even bigger challenge for his side.
”Pirates have a first class coach in Ruud Krol, a fantastic set up and are well organised. To get anything out of this game will be a big boost for us.”
Solomons stressed that his team’s early success is down to solid teamwork.
”We have a couple of top quality players but our strength is that we are able to combine individual skills with good team work. We have had a successful start to the season and hopefully it will continue.”
However, Solomons has warned his side against complacency against the swash buckling Buccaneers.
”The trick is not to dwell on past successes but to carry them forward to the future.”
Solomons said that his first part of rebuilding Santos was complete.
”I have managed to fine tune our defence and now I will work on other departments of our game it takes time but so far so good for us. But we need to keep the momentum going.”
The fact that Solomons has organised his defence is borne out by the fact they have only conceded four goals in their nine league fixtures played so far.
Solomons is aware his side have scored only eight goals — less than a goal a game and that is one area he needs to fix. The Santos coach will be looking to strikers such as Eleazar Rodgers and Ryan Chapman to test the Bucs defence while Irwin Isaacs, Graham King and Romano Scott will be pulling the strings in midfield.
Bucs will be back at full strength with the return of their four Bafana Bafana players from friendly matches against Norway and Iceland.
Goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs has conceded only one goal in nine league matches and is the in-form keeper in the PSL.
Also back is midfielder Andile Jali who helped the South African under-20 side Amajita reach the second round of the World Youth Championships in Egypt. — Sapa