Absa Premiership

The Soweto giants are no longer much taller than everybody else

2017-10-04 11:49
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Cape Town - Orlando Pirates endured their most miserable season in recent memory and did it in the most embarrassing fashion possible for a big club.

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 respectively.

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 attack.

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 their glory.

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 MTN8.

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.

Read more on:    kaizer chiefs  |  orlando pirates  |  psl  |  soccer

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