Johannesburg - Title holders Orlando Pirates are back on the way up, according to coach Jurio Leal, after they steamrolled Premiership log leaders SuperSport United in Soweto on Saturday night.
After winning three trophies last season, the Buccaneers showed their intent with a convincing 3-0 victory, pulling themselves together in an otherwise inconsistent league campaign.
"We've got a winning team and we want to defend the treble," Leal said.
"We started well, and then we dropped a little bit, but we're coming back."
Pirates face Wits in the Telkom Knockout final in Durban on December 10, and veteran striker Benni McCarthy, the Man-of -the-Match, said they hoped to carry their form in search of their second cup title this season.
"We've practiced playing the ball wide and getting the ball into the box, because we have good players," McCarthy said.
"It worked tonight and hopefully we can take this ahead into next week's final."
McCarthy netted the opener when he scored from the spot in the 21st minute.
Isaac Chansa banged in a close-range effort 10 minutes later, and Ndumiso Mabena fired home a volley shortly after the break as Pirates ran away with it.
"We knew we had to come out and play well with some very difficult games ahead," McCarthy said.
"We needed to stay tight and believe in ourselves, and we went out there and did our best."
United coach Gavin Hunt, in charge for his 500th top-flight match in a 15-year Premiership span, said his side would pick themselves up after they were handed their first league defeat of the campaign.
"It was always going to be tough, and we had a lot of opportunities ourselves, but we were not able to kick on," Hunt said.
"We were like a rabbit in the headlights tonight, but we must take it on the chin, pick it up and start again."
Hunt believed they were still in control, holding top spot on the table, and remained confident his side, gunning for their fourth league title in five seasons, would recover from the only blemish in their league run.
"There's a long way go. We had a bad day and it's one of those things," Hunt said.
"If we lose only one of our next 12 games, we'll still be top of the table, but this was a poor performance from our side."
In other league encounters on Saturday, a resurgent Moroka Swallows outfit continued their superb form this season, romping to a 4-1 win over strugglers Black Leopards in Dobsonville.
Bottom feeders Jomo Cosmos bagged their first victory of the campaign, defeating Platinum Stars 2-1 in Daveyton.
Free State Stars kept themselves in the title race with a 2-0 win over Santos at Charles Mopeli Stadium, and Golden Arrows clawed back from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Wits in Johannesburg.