Cape Town - Orlando Pirates endured their most miserable season in
recent memory and did it in the most embarrassing fashion possible for a
According to TheSouthAfrican website, while it might have not inspired fears that the Soweto
giants might follow their oldest rivals Moroka Swallows to the lower
divisions - and eventually obscurity - it went some way into confirming
that at least one half of the so-called “big two” of South African
football, may not be as big anymore.
One of South Africa’s oldest clubs has been on a downward
spiral since clinching their last league title in 2012, which came in a
very successful period for the club when they won back-to-back domestic
trebles between 2010 and 2012.
They have since finished fourth in the 2012/13 campaign,
fourth in the following two seasons, seventh in the season before last
where they managed just six wins in finishing eleventh.
The seasons leading up to the embarrassment of last season
could be excused - and were excused - by the high workload resulting in
the team’s participation in continental cup competition. The Soweto club
had decent runs in the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederations
Cup, crashing in the final hurdle in both competitions in 2013 and 2015
Their failure to make a mark in the domestic league can
perhaps be attributed to the continental competitions unforgiving
schedule and itinerary, but Orlando Pirates’ supposed financial muscle
should have translated to squad depth.
More embarrassing than their lowest finish in the PSL era
was the manner in which they achieved it, shipping six goals against two
of the three Pretoria sides in the league last season. This included
their record loss when they went down 6-0 to Mamelodi Sundowns at Loftus. A defeat which brought out the wrath of the supporters who stormed the field causing the game to be suspended.
That humiliating defeat broke a record which lasted a mere
three months after Pirates were thumped 6-1 by Sundowns neighbours
Supersport United, a side they would later go on to lose by another huge
margin (4-1) in the Nedbank Cup final.
At least they had a good cup run.
Mediocre transfer activity
You would think after such a pathetic season the club would
make drastic changes in addressing their defensive frailties and a blunt
Well, changes were made. They shipped goalkeeper Brighton
Mhlongo off and brought in the experienced Wayne Sandilands. That was
about their only decisive move in the transfer market.
If you don’t count them selling their top goal scorer in the
last two seasons, Tendai Ndoro to Saudi club Al-Faisaly and not
bringing in a replacement. Instead they opted to go with Thamsanqa
Gabuza as the main striker. A man who registered just two goals in last
season’s disastrous campaign.
They also lost captain, Oupa Manyisa to Sundowns but did sign some midfield options in Musa Nyatama and Thamsanqa Sangweni.
Even with all this transfer activity one feels a team of
Pirates’ prestige could have snatched some bigger names in the transfer
market. They were after all available. The biggest of which being former
Borussia Dortmund and Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar who has over
the years been vocal in his support for Orlando Pirates and his desire
to one day turn out for the club.
To be fair though, age might have count against Pienaar, but
he was certainly good enough to be snatched up by Bidvest Wits. The
defending champions also snatched up another big name in Daylon Claasen
from German club 1860 Munich.
Another player who was available was the extremely talented Ayanda Patosi who was open to a move back home after his relationship with Belgian club SC Lokeren broke down.
Once again Pirates showed little interest in the attacking midfielder
and he was picked up by the newly-rebranded Cape Town City FC, who were
going into only their second season in the top flight.
Pirates transfer activity speaks of lack of ambition – more
like trying to avoid a further downward spiral rather than reclaiming
Not much better in Naturena
Kaizer Chiefs on the other hand have made headline more for
players leaving the club rather than those coming in. In recent years it
has become customary for the club to release a long list of players
released from Naturena.
They did however go the unconventional route in scouting as
far as Venezuela for their main man upfront Gustavo Paez. His signing
initially raised eyebrows as he came to the country with just 17 goals
in 143 senior league appearances.
Amakhosi have been more successful than their fierce rivals,
winning the league twice since the Buccaneers’ last triumph and also
clinching other silverware twice in the form of the Nedbank Cup and the
They have been far from the team which used to instill fear
towards their opposition though. Even during their successful 2014/15
campaign, they were often dominated by their opponents but would grind
out a win.
Last season they finished fourth, one up from their previous
league position. That’s not to say there was any notable improvement in
style of play or fan satisfaction. Current coach Steve Komphela remains
under fire as the club have been inconsistent under him.
Sundowns are the real Kings
While one Soweto club is on the decline and the other seems
to have stagnated, a few clubs have either caught up or stretched the
gap between themselves and the so-called “giants”.
Mamelodi Sundowns may not enjoy as much support as their
rivals but they are the most successful club in the country in terms of
league titles. They recently added continental silverware to their seven
league titles when they won the CAF Champions League last year.
Chiefs and Pirates each have four league titles.
Everyone else catching up
One club catching up is Supersport United, who enjoy a good
head-to-head record against both clubs and are only one league title
short of the Soweto clubs tally. Though they haven’t hoisted premiership
title in seven years, they have been in the title race consistently
since, also picking up other silverware in the process.
Bidvest Wits also deserve a mention having finished higher
than both their Joburg rivals in the last two seasons before clinching
their first league title last season. They enjoy a favourable record
against Pirates and have bullied both clubs in the transfer market.
Long gone are the days where a game against either Chiefs or
Pirates would strike fear in the opponents’ hearts. Even clubs like
Baroka FC, who Chiefs are yet to defeat, now go in fearless.
The Soweto giants are certainly not much taller than everybody else.