Davids urges mental toughness from Pirates at squeaky bum time against Sundowns
Orlando Pirates assistant-coach Fadlu Davids says their players must show superior mental toughness to be able to handle the intense pressure of the final stretch of the Absa Premiership campaign over the coming weeks.
Pirates go into their next match against bitter rivals Mamelodi Sundowns in an unusually-scheduled Monday night fixture at Orlando Stadium in Soweto placed third on the table with seven games remaining.
“When it comes to this critical stage of the season physical fitness is one part but mental freshness is another‚” he said.
“We have played over 30 matches in all competitions so far this season‚ including the Caf Champions League‚ and freshness is going to be crucial.
“This relates especially to the players‚ who have played most of the matches so far. The most important thing is the thinking of the players in terms of how they handle pressure situations.
“As the technical team‚ it is our responsibility to be clear and not allow them to be distracted by the external factors and the hype that are going on around them and the team.”
Pirates take on nemesis Sundowns with both sides looking for the crucial three points to improve their positions on the log.
The game has been billed as a potential title decider‚ but Davids said the result of this crunch match will not determine who will be eventual champions.
“The next game is not a title decider because there are still 18 points to play for.
"We can’t say it’s a title decider because that will be disrespecting Bidvest Wits‚ Cape Town City and SuperSport United‚” he said.
Wits‚ and SuperSport are still in the race to dethrone Sundowns but there is still the outside possibility of even sixth-placed Polokwane City and seventh-positioned Kaizer Chiefs winning the league‚ which will make the run-in exciting.
“I think the title race will be decided on the last day of the season‚ and not this game‚” Davids said.
Pirates have not beaten Sundowns at Orlando Stadium since 2011 and captain Happy Jele said this is their chance to redeem themselves against their rivals.
“It’s been a while since we beat Sundowns at Olando Stadium but I think now is the time to change that‚” Jele said.
“I think Sundowns are a good team and we are expecting a tough battle against them because they have experienced players who have won the league before.”
Pirates will be without injured midfielder Xola Mlambo and suspended winger Vincent Pule‚ while Sundowns will be without Uruguayan striker Gaston Sirino‚ who is serving a two-match suspension.