Pirates: We are still in our rebuilding phase

Teammates congratulate Justin Shonga of Orlando Pirates on his goal during the Absa Premiership match between Chippa United and Orlando Pirates at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (Gallo)

Teammates congratulate Justin Shonga of Orlando Pirates on his goal during the Absa Premiership match between Chippa United and Orlando Pirates at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (Gallo)

Justin Shonga’s 93rd minute strike on Sunday is the type of goal that end-of-season montages are built on. While it’s harder to hit a ball more sweetly, it’s the catharsis it would have brought to Bucs fans that may prove it indelible in memory.

Orlando Pirates knew going into the game against Chippa United that this was their moment. The Tshwane Derby had proved too tough a prospect for Mamelodi Sundowns while, equally, Kaizer Chiefs could only muster a draw against travelling Bloemfontein Celtic. Victory would mean second place on the log.

There was no mistaking what this meant when Shonga initially snatched the lead on the 72nd minute and Milutin Sredojevic hoisted assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena into a jubilant embrace.

If Pirates didn’t have the stomach to fight back after Chippa’s 83rd punch to the gut, the mood in their camp would likely be very different. As it were they did, and just three minutes later Thembinkosi Lorch looped a beautiful header over the keeper and into the far corner. Three - two and cue the aforementioned Shonga cracker to seal the deal.

Mokwena, however, remained coy and insisted, for all intents and purposes, Pirates are still in a rebuilding phase.

“I think what you see this season is a misrepresentation of the log,” he said after a light Monday training session. “It supports what we continually talk about – we need more time.”

“When you look at the log … teams like SuperSport and Wits are not where they should be when you look at their stature.”

Mokwena went on to compare the situation to Jose Mourinho’s famous “three-horse race analogy”. In this equation Pirates are the little horse that still needs to grow before it can challenge Chiefs and Sundowns.

“We don’t want to fall into a false sense of security and think ‘Hey! We can challenge for the title.’”

Goalkeeper Jackson Mabokgwane echoed Mokwena’s sentiment.

“We are talking about teams that have been building for some time, they’re obviously more stable than we are,” he said. “We are hoping, with time, we will get to where we want to be but at the moment we are rebuilding and it’s good that things are starting to fall into place. It’s still early .. but we’re heading in the right direction.”

Whoever is favourite or underdog, Saturday’s Soweto Derby is looking increasingly enticing and significant. Should Pirates reign supreme over Chiefs, it may get a bit harder to play the little horse tune.

Luke Feltham

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