Title-chasing Orlando Pirates will be guarding their unbeaten home record while BidVest Wits will look for their first win of the year when the Johannesburg-based rivals clash in an Absa Premiership showdown at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
Bucs maintained the pressure in the title race with a 2-0 away win over Golden Arrows on Wednesday to remain two points behind leaders Mamelodi Sundowns as the competition approaches the halfway stage.
For the Students, however, their 1-0 away loss to Platinum Stars in the midweek matches was their second in a row.
There was good and bad news for Bucs after securing their seventh away victory of the league season, with winger Daine Klate returning to play a key role, only to aggravate a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the dull 0-0 home draw against Santos at their Soweto stronghold last weekend.
“The doctors will assess Klate who is also suffering with a stomach complaint,” said Pirates spokesperson Mickey Modisane.
Meanwhile, midfielder Clifford Ngobeni, who missed Wednesday’s clash with flu, could make a return for the Wits game.
“We have a few players, including defender Robyn Johannes, still out with the flu bug that has hit the camp during the past few weeks,” Modisane said.
Wits coach Roger de Sa admitted his side were low on confidence, but he drew some positives from their loss to Stars.
“Stars’ goal was brilliant, but we have to bounce back,” said De Sa. “We have always done well against Pirates. There will be no need to motivate the players, as they will be up for this match.
“The lack of confidence, however, is a problem at the moment and it’s something I am working on.”
Call for experience
De Sa said he was in need of more experience in his squad after failing to win a game in their last eight matches.
‘We have not done enough to win games recently. We need to improve,” he said. “We have a young side and maybe I need to get more experience.”
There is good news on that front. Former Pirates midfielder Stanton Fredericks returned to the side against Stars and will play a key role against his former club, while De Sa’s other experienced midfielder, Mark Haskins, is set to make a comeback after a long lay-off due to injury.
Modisane and his players were worried about the low turnout of fans for recent matches.
“The crowds are dwindling and the players have noticed. The have appealed for a big turnout on Saturday,” he said. “We want to win the league for the fans but need their help and appeal to them to come out in numbers.”
Saturday’s other big clash is the Pretoria derby between Sundowns and defending champions SuperSport United at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.
United drew 0-0 against Free State Stars in Atteridgeville on Wednesday. The title holders have netted only 12 goals in 15 matches and will be hard-pressed to get past the well-marshalled Sundowns defence.
In other Saturday fixtures, Platinum Stars meet Ajax Cape Town at the Moruleng Stadium, Vasco da Gama face Free State Stars at the Philippi Stadium, Golden Arrows host Maritzburg United at the Chatsworth Stadium, and Santos are at home to bottom side Mpumalanga Black Aces at Athlone Stadium. — Sapa