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Buccaneers face tough test

Fri 14 Feb by Mark Gleeson

StoryOfWeek

With five league wins in a row and no further distractions after defeat in the Nedbank Cup last weekend, Orlando Pirates are suddenly in the PSL title race.But time is not on their side. They have just 10 games left and must keep up the momentum if they are to pull off one of the great come-from-behind successes in some 50 years of South African professional football history.The club bungled their way through the first half of the season, having made a strong statement of intent before the campaign by signing more players than any other club.But the mysterious departure of coach Milutin Sredojevich after a handful of matches set the team on a downward spiral. Rhulani Mokoena took over, but did not have the experience to get them firing again. As a result, Pirates bungled their way through first half of the season.The arrival of Jozef Zinnbauer as coach has been the catalyst for change and he has yet to lose a game in charge. Even last weekend’s Nedbank Cup tie ended in a draw before post-match penalties eliminated the Buccaneers.But just what has been the recipe for this turnaround is not clear. Maybe a little more common sense, less theory and more of the practical or perhaps just an opportunistically timeous dollop of good fortune.But tomorrow Pirates will face a tough examination in the steamy confines of Venda and in front of a largely partisan, if not hostile, crowd as they take on Black Leopards.The Thohoyandou club are pulling in the people, albeit not the points, but their lowly status must not lead to underestimation. They have a penchant for upsets.It is going to be a real test of Pirates’ potential to keep up their winning form and emerge as belated challengers for the title.They are still nine points behind arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs, although there is a Soweto derby to come later this month.Chiefs and defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns make it a three-way race now with Wits still lurking in the shadows, although with increasingly less light on their hopes.Chiefs and Sundowns should win this weekend, making it even more imperative for the Buccaneers to do the same.

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