Orlando Pirates primed for ‘nice fight’ with Stellenbosch FC for CAF Champions League spot

Young Orlando Pirates sensation Relebohile Mofokeng takes on the Chippa United defence at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday. Photo: BackpagePix

Young Orlando Pirates sensation Relebohile Mofokeng takes on the Chippa United defence at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published May 10, 2024


Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro has reiterated that Stellenbosch FC remain in the driving seat in the race for CAF Champions League football next season.

The Buccaneers easily beat off the challenge of Chippa United 2-0 at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday night to move within a point of Stellies on the DStv Premiership standings, with three games of the season left to play.

The Sea Robbers’ course was aided by AmaZulu holding Stellenbosch to a goalless draw in the Cape Winelands on Wednesday as well.

Having registered seven consecutive wins and kept four league clean sheets on the trot, Pirates seem to have harboured that “second-round energy” that they always seem to have.

Just like last season, Riveiro seems to have found the right combinations in all departments as he seeks to keep the consistency to have any chance of returning to continental football next season.

The “Spanish guitar” – as Pirates fans call him nowadays – is on course to win his fourth cup competition after the Soweto outfit qualified for the Nedbank Cup final recently.

However, Riveiro has not hidden his ambitions of returning the club to more consistent continental runs, alongside winning the league for the first time since 2012.

Despite their impressive form and experience, Riveiro has opted for a calmer approach for the remainder of the season.

The 48-year-old seemed to try and ease the pressure on his own squad as he stated that Stellies remain in control of their fate this season with their one-point advantage at this stage – with the Cape club on 50 points and Pirates on 49 after 27 matches, behind champions Mamelodi Sundowns on 63 from 25 games.

“Stellies is still ahead of us with one point. That’s the reality... They will still depend on their own performances (to secure second place), and we just have to keep pushing as much as we can,” Riveiro said.

“We have to do our own homework because it’s going to be difficult for all of us in the last games for sure.

“But at the same time, it’s a nice fight.

“Stellies is having an excellent season. Whatever happens in the end for them, it’s been an exceptional campaign.

“It’s obviously the second objective, but it’s the highest position we can achieve right now, and we’re going to give our all.”

Much of the discussion around this reinvigorated Pirates outfit has been around the untouchable Tshegofatso Mabasa, who is scoring goals at will.

The 27-year-old leapt back to the top of the goal-scoring chart (above Iqraam Rayners on 14) with a brace against the Chilli Boys to take his tally to 15 for the season, having scored five in the last five in all competitions.

Although the likes of wingers Relebohile Mofokeng and Kabelo Dlamini have shone alongside him, it is the Bloemfontein Celtic academy graduate who is finally living up to his billing.

Riveiro acknowledged his side’s attacking prowess at the moment, but interestingly enough, also explained how his team’s defensive quality has aided the course.

“Being solid and not conceding is a big thing for a team. With the capacity that we have in attack, it’s difficult to keep a clean sheet against us,” the coach said.

“So, if we can keep a clean sheet, it guarantees that we will get all three points. We are second on the log in terms of scoring goals behind Sundowns.”

Pirates will welcome relegation-threatened Richards Bay to Orlando Stadium tomorrow (8pm kick-off), hoping to keep their fine run going as Stellies crank up the heat when they take on Moroka Swallows at Dobsonville Stadium tomorrow (3pm).

The Sea Robbers will thereafter travel to TS Galaxy, before closing out the season against SuperSport United.