Coach Josef Zinnbauer plays down his Orlando Pirates charges as title contenders
A question on whether Orlando Pirates should be considered serious DStv Premiership title contenders, as they hit form in the crucial death end of the 2020-21 season, was deflected like a neat Tshegofatso Mabasa header by coach Josef Zinnbauer on Tuesday.
After his team confirmed they are on a roll again with a sixth win in seven league and cup matches, methodically dispatching Bloemfontein Celtic 1-0 at Orlando Stadium‚ of course Zinnbauer was asked if third-placed Bucs are contenders for the league trophy.
Big striker Mabasa’s return from injury as a substitute was an added plus for Zinnbauer.
The cautious‚ likable German‚ though‚ was not putting his head on the block‚ even with early pacesetters Swallows FC suffering their first league defeat of their promoted campaign‚ 2-1 against TS Galaxy.
Second-placed SuperSport United’s recent stutters continued with a 1-0 loss against in-form AmaZulu.
The Buccaneers are four points behind unbeaten leaders Mamelodi Sundowns‚ who‚ with three games in hand on Pirates‚ remain overwhelming favourites to defend their title for a third time.
“Yeah but we don’t have the same [amount of] games as the other teams. Swallows have [two] less and Sundowns have three.
"We can speak about it in the [coming] weeks when we have games behind us‚” Zinnbauer said‚ when asked if Bucs are title contenders.
“The focus for me now is on the next game against Chippa and then from Wednesday in the international games‚ and then the Nedbank Cup‚ in this one [Polokwane City] against Sundowns.”
Pirates meet Chippa United in the Premiership at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday‚ then Algeria’s ES Setif in the Caf Confederation Cup on Wednesday.
Bucs play a second Confed Group A game against Enyimba of Nigeria on Wednesday‚ March 17.
The date of Pirates’ Nedbank Cup quarterfinal against the winners of the last-16 match between Sundowns and Polokwane at Loftus Versfeld on March 10 is still to be confirmed.
Zinnbauer continued: “And we have to focus on this week and next week‚ and not the title.
“Important for us is the recovery now‚ get the players back fresh and we will hope for a better performance in the next game [against Chippa].”
The ex-Karlsruhe coach was the first to admit it was not Bucs’ best performance against Celtic‚ saying the effects of matches coming thick and fast were visible on his players.
“I think we can see from what’s happened on the field that the players were very tired today. They have played a lot of games in this period – Confed games‚ Nedbank games and league games.
“And you could see it today. The players were not fresh enough for more. But we are happy with the three points.”