Bucs gear up for Santos
Johannesburg - Losing the Telkom Knockout final to arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs last month could prove the turning point for Orlando Pirates this season.
Click to vote and WIN in the Sport24 Annual Awards
"We do not want to dwell on the past, but the final (Pirates lost 3-0 to Chiefs on December 4) taught us a lesson and it was a wake up call," Bucs' Zambian international midfielder Isaac Chansa said on Wednesday.
"We sat down afterwards and got it out of our system. We look forward not backwards," he said.
"There is a long road ahead, but we have the spirit and the talent to succeed.
"The league is open and winning the league won’t be easy, but we have shown remarkable character after the final and we were able to bounce back."
Chansa is set to play a key role in the second half of the season.
"It is a new year and new doors will open for Pirates. We have set our goals and know we can achieve them," he said.
Second placed Bucs tackle Santos at the Orlando Stadium in a crunch Absa Premiership clash on Saturday night.
Chansa said he was not feeling the pressure with the "Big Three" - Mamelodi Sundowns, Chiefs and Pirates - in pole position to challenge for honours.
Downs head the standings with 27 points followed by Chiefs on 26 and Bucs on 25 after 13 rounds. Santos are in fifth place with 21 points.
"Santos are not far behind us and have always proved a handful, but we have recovered well since the cup final and are on the right track," said Chansa.
"There will always be pressure, but that goes with the territory," he said.
The Premiership title will not be decided in January, according to Bucs' head coach Ruud Krol.
He believed the smaller sides in the lower half of the Premiership would help decide the new champions in May.
Speaking after putting his players through a tough training session at the Johannesburg Stadium on Wednesday in preparation for Saturday night’s clash against Santos, Krol said there was a long way to go.
"I do not include Santos as one of the smaller sides. They are up there challenging for the championship," said the former Dutch captain.
"I believe that any of the sides in the bottom half can beat the so-called big boys and will play a role as to who will win the title. It is a very competitive league."
Krol has been impressed by Santos and especially by their new Bloemfontein-born midfielder Vuyisile Wana.
Wana announced himself in the PSL with a spectacular goal and created two more to help Santos defeat Golden Arrows 3-1 over the weekend.
"That was a special goal and this newcomer looks good, but there are other Santos players we will have to keep an eye on, other top players such as Erwin Isaacs if he plays," said Krol.
Bucs' striker Thulasizwe Mbuyane admitted Santos had a stubborn defence and was a difficult side to play against.
"Santos are quick and like to play on the counter-attack, but we have worked hard this week in an effort to neutralise their defenders.
"We have worked on a game plan to get past them. As a striker I know they have a good defence, but they conceded goals and hopefully I will get onto the scoresheet against them."
Mbuyane said it was not important for Pirates to play what he termed "pretty soccer".
"We did not play that well against SuperSport United last weekend, but managed to win 1-0 with a last minute goal. That is all that matters at this stage -- three points.
"I do not mind how we play as long as we finish the night with three more points that keeps our title hopes alive," he said.