Pirates drama kings as Premiership curtain falls

SIPHESIHLE Ndlovu of SuperSport United is challenged by Patrick Maswanganyi of Orlando Pirates during their Premiership match at Orlando Stadium yesterday. BackpagePix

SIPHESIHLE Ndlovu of SuperSport United is challenged by Patrick Maswanganyi of Orlando Pirates during their Premiership match at Orlando Stadium yesterday. BackpagePix

Published May 26, 2024



CAF Champions League football beckons for Orlando Pirates yet again and this time the Buccaneers are surely not going to disappoint like they did last season, are they?

Pirates sneaked ahead of Stellenbosch FC on the final matchday of the 2023/24 Premiership season despite again failing to win when they drew 1-1 with SuperSport United at Orlando Stadium.

But with Stellies losing 2-1 at Richards Bay, Pirates stole the valuable runners-up berth behind champions Mamelodi Sundowns via a better goal difference (18 to Stellies’ 16) after the two sides were locked on 50 points each.

The Winelands team, who had a remarkable season that included winning the Carling Knockout, will thus contest the second tier CAF Confederation Cup and will be joined by Sekhukhune United, who stole fourth place via a 1-0 win at Chippa United.

While Stellies are going into their maiden African safari, Ba Bina Noko are returning to the continent and the competition in which they did well this season when they made it to the group stages.

Although they will go there without coach Lehlohonolo Seema, who has parted ways with the club under mysterious circumstances, the Limpopo outfit will no doubt be wiser from their experience and can be expected to do well.

Sekhukhune have their neighbours Polokwane City to thank for their ticket to Africa, Rise and Shine beating high-flying TS Galaxy, who started the day in the Confederation Cup pound seats in fourth spot. But a first-half goal by Oswin Appollis was enough to help them stop the Rockets.

At Orlando Stadium, Tshegofatso Mabasa secured the Lesley Manyathela Award with a first-half goal, a simple tap-in from inside the box, to finish the season as the league’s highest scorer with 16 goals.

Mabasa was ran very close by Stellies’ Iqraam Rayners, who was on the mark against Richards Bay to finish on 15 goals.

Shockingly eliminated by Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy in the preliminary round of the Champions League this year, Pirates needed to go back to the continent’s premier club knockout competition for redemption, and they will have to at least make it to the group stage to prove they are still one of the continent’s football giants.

The first southern African team to become African champions back in 1995, Pirates have to be inspired by the 30 anniversary celebrations of that glorious success in Abidjan to want to have a successful Champions League campaign.

Given their strong second half of the season in which they ended up finishing runners-up yet again, there is every reason to expect Pirates to feature prominently alongside Sundowns, who will have yet another bite at continental glory after defending their domestic title.

Pirates will do well to hold on to Mabasa, who has been linked with a move to Sundowns, whom Pirates face in the season’s last match, the Nedbank Cup final in Mbombela on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

It is a pretty strong contingent the Premiership is sending into Africa and South African football fans have good reason to anticipate a positive run by the four clubs.

Mabasa was not included in Bafana Bafana’s preliminary squad ahead of World Cup qualifiers.