Following an iffy start to the season wherein they were knocked out of the MTN8 and failed to win their opening two league games, Orlando Pirates seem to be finding their way again.
Back-to-back league victories, the second more impressive than the first, and it seems to be all smiles in the Pirates camp again. Ncikazi-mania is the overwhelming feeling for Pirates fans. Until they take a look at the fixture list to see who is next: Mamelodi Sundowns. A match against Sundowns is important for any club – but it takes particular significance for Pirates, when you consider the history that has gone before.
21 – Pirates have lost more league matches against Sundowns than against any other opponent in PSL history (21).
Pirates good form
The positive thing is that Pirates are in good form. They have successfully navigated two-thirds of a September fixture list that always looked tricky. Starting with a Swallows side that was responsible for knocking them out of the Cup, and followed up by a Chippa side managed by Gavin Hunt (who in 900+ matches of top flight football has won more against Pirates than any other side). They won both. But now, a home visit from the champions is next, who have already beaten them three times this year in all competitions, by an aggregate score of 8-1.
1 – Only once before have Pirates lost to Sundowns four times in the same year (2007).
A different proposition
Six points against Swallows and Chippa represent a commendable return, but it is little cause for celebration. The latter has been revealed to be facing their own problems, while beating the former has been done by 12 successive Pirates sides. No offence, but even Kjell Jonevret in his short spell in 2017 won only two games – one of those wins was against Chippa. These can hardly be classified as season-defining fixtures. But the Sundowns game is a different proposition, especially at home – which brings us to another point about Pirates’ home form. Pirates won 8 in a row at home between end January and mid-April (100% win rate), but have only won three of the last nine home games (33% win rate).
Reinstating the fear factor for visiting sides is likely on Mandla Ncikazi and Fadlu Davids’s job description as a KPI.
In fact, the last time Pirates hosted Sundowns so early in the season was exactly 10 years ago, on this same weekend – Saturday 24 September 2011. The teams shared the spoils, but Pirates would go on to finish the season unbeaten at home, and claim the PSL title.
1 – Pirates have won just one of the last 10 league games at home to Sundowns,drawing three and losing the other six.
A favourable month for Pirates
A 67% win rate in any month of PSL league football would be considered good for the biggest of teams, and a 100% win rate would be ideal. But a 100% win rate, that also includes a win against the defending champions would be a dream. The last time Pirates played 3+ matches in the same month and won all three was back in February 2015. But September has been favourable in the past.
35 – The clash against Sundowns will be Pirates’ 35th league match played at home in the 21st century.
They’ve lost just one of the previous 34 (W18 D15 since 2000).
Amazulu v Baroka
12.5% – Benni McCarthy has won just one of 8 previous games against Baroka (12,5% win rate). Only against Arrows (11%) does he have a lower win rate.
Sekhukhune United v Golden Arrows
10 & 11 – Arrows have scored more goals than any other side in all competitions this season (10), but have also conceded the most of all sides (11).
Stellenbosch v Chippa United
1 – Following their 3-0 win over Cape Town City, Stellies spent Saturday night at the summit of the PSL table, a first in the club’s top-flight history.
SuperSport United v Maritzburg United
Maritzburg have won their last two games 1-0, but face SuperSport, against whom they have won once in the last 15 games.
3 – Maritzburg are yet to string together three wins in a row under Middendorp in his current spell.
By Opta Jabu