WHEN Orlando Pirates are settled and stable as they seem to be now, they are a clear and present danger for any team.
None more so than Kaizer Chiefs, whom they face in today’s Soweto derby in the Premier Soccer League at what should be a jam-packed FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
A Pirates win will open up the door for the chasing pack Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits, who have the potential to make the most of any slip-up Chiefs present them with, should the points difference drop to less than double figures.
Gavin Hunt’s team spoiled things for Sundowns with an efficient win on Tuesday, which also conversely made life that much easier for Chiefs.
They rammed home the advantage by dismissing Ajax Cape Town 1-0 on Wednesday evening.
It seems the season has come to a point where Chiefs do not care how they collect their three points. It is just a case of getting the job done with minimum effort and maximum rewards. Amakhosi’s excellence in the league campaign has not gone unnoticed as they became the fastest team to breach 50 points in a campaign.
With the 16-team league points record being 65 points set by Mamelodi Sundowns last season, Chiefs are 15 away and a win will put them closer to that dream.
It will also end any hopes Pirates may have harboured of mounting a late league fight back, unless Chiefs suffer the mother of all meltdowns.
However, they will be wary of a Pirates unit that has not won a Soweto Derby in the last five attempts, albeit from a league perspective.
Pirates also go into the game on a five-match winning streak, but the form book is often thrown out of the window in these derbies.
The Buccaneers’ mental flatness in the past two derbies was the surprising and defining factor. For a game of this magnitude, they seemed to lack the motivation to sustain a credible challenge but they have markedly improved.
Pirates coach Eric Tinkler knows the pressure his team is under to prevent Chiefs from claiming an unprecedented Derby treble, but he just wants his team to enjoy the occasion.
There is also the small matter of gaining ground on Sundowns and Wits, who will be within reach should Pirates get the best of their neighbours in the competition’s biggest derby.
Tinkler feels the team is in a far better mental space than they were in the first-round derby, which was the first one in the aftermath of Senzo Meyiwa’s tragic death. Coach Vladimir Vermezovic had unceremoniously exited the club just days before the game after a string of poor results.
“The previous derby was a difficult period. We had lost Senzo and then there was the coach [Vladimir Vermezovic], so it was a difficult time,” Tinkler said.
“The motivation is there and the players are doing well for me. We have been grinding out results, which is something I have been very proud of.”
“I’m going into this game with a very positive mindset and I’m pretty sure the performance we will put on will be far better than the one we put on in the last derby.
“We want to continue on our winning ways and apply pressure on the teams that are above us.
“Sundowns are close behind Chiefs and we would want to see the league go down to the wire,” an upbeat Tinkler said.