The Absa Premiership returns on Wednesday evening with Mamelodi Sundowns hosting Orlando Pirates at Dobsonville Stadium with three other fixtures lined up during the week.
There are not too many local fixtures that are more high-profile than two of the leading clubs, Sundowns and Pirates meeting in the midst of a title race.
If the Nedbank Cup clashes over the weekend were anything to go by, we could be in for another festival of goals, with four-midweek matches kicking off the remainder of the league season.
Sundowns v Pirates
After qualifying for the Nedbank Cup final on the weekend, a confident Sundowns will tackle Orlando Pirates tonight, looking to continue their form from the weekend. The Nedbank Cup final will be Pitso Mosimane’s sixth domestic final since joining the club in 2012, equalling the number of domestic finals he managed while he was coach of Supersport in the early 2000s.
That’s how long he has been at the top-level. But tonight’s clash is different, and not just because it is a different tournament and different opponent. The clash is also a different level of rivalry altogether.
48 – Tonight’s clash will be the 48th league meeting between Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, making it the joint-most played league fixture in the PSL era.
Alongside Maritzburg, Pirates were two of the form teams in 2020 before the league was suspended. Pirates won both Player and Coach of the Month in January, Maritzburg picked up both awards for February/March.
That may have been six months ago, but it is worth remembering that form also included Orlando Pirates beating Sundowns 1-0 in January. By another measure, it was only five league games ago that Sundowns lost to Pirates. The Buccaneers could be motivated to complete a double over Sundowns.
Only twice before have they won home and away against Sundowns in a single season (2003-04 and 2010-11). In February, Josef Zinnbauer became just the third Orlando Pirates coach after Roy Barreto (2002) & Ruud Krol (2011) to oversee a run of six successive Absa Premiership wins for Pirates in the PSL era.
He could add another record to his early collection, and become the third Pirates coach to complete a league double over Sundowns. In the process, he could set another unique record applicable to all PSL coaches.
2 – Only two coaches have completed a double over Pitso Mosimane’s Sundowns (Eric Tinkler for Cape Town City in 2016/17 & Bernard Molekwa for Polokwane City in 2017/18).
The January victory by Pirates is also a reminder of the upper hand they have enjoyed over Sundowns in the last few years. Sundowns’ last victory in the league over Pirates was in November 2017, and Downs haven’t scored in their last 270 minutes (3 games) of action.
Depending on when (and if) Sundowns score tonight, Pirates could set a record for the most minutes a Pirates team have kept Sundowns at bay in the league. But that won’t be an easy task:
19 – In the PSL era, Orlando Pirates have lost more league matches against Sundowns (19) than they have against any other Absa Premiership side.
On an individual level, Gabadinho Mhango will also be looking to get on the scoresheet for Pirates. Currently leading The Golden Boot race, Mhango could score his 15th goal of the season.
2 – Should Mhango score against Sundowns, he will become the first Pirates player to score a league double over Sundowns since Thulasizwe Mbuyane in 2010/11.
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By Opta Jabu