Bidvest Wits vs Orlando Pirates | Sunday 17 August | Bidvest Stadium | 15:00
Last season’s third and fourth place league finishers meet in the second semi-final on Sunday afternoon. The new look Wits side have managed to uphold last season’s good showings but face their toughest test yet against a Pirates side who are out to prove themselves. Please note that midweek league fixtures were yet to be played at the time of writing.
To Win (90mins)
Bidvest Wits 2/1
Orlando Pirates 13/10
Sthembiso Ngcobo scored a late penalty to guide Wits to a tough 1-0 victory over hosts SuperSport United in their Absa Premiership opener at the Lucas Moripe Stadium last Saturday night. Last season’s third place finishers got their new season up and running and had Sibusiso Vilakazi to thank, after he was brought down inside the area, resulting in the penalty. Coach Gavin Hunt admitted for the second consecutive game that Wits are some way off the pace from where they need to be, but was pleased to walk away with three points against SuperSport. “You can see we’re a new team. I’ve got seven or eight changes in the team so it’s going to take a bit of time, but what can I do?” Hunt said afterwards. “I’ve just got to try and soldier on, try and get as many points as we can, as quick as we can, and try and make a challenge from there. There’s not enough quality in the final third, but what do you want? Prettiness or points at this stage? We’ll take the points.”
Wits beat Bloemfontein Celtic 4-3 on penalties to advance to the semi-finals of the MTN8 two weeks back. After 120 minutes of play, nothing could separate the two sides as the match ended in a goalless stalemate. Wits have been beefed up in defence and attack by the arrival of some highly rated individual players who will offer stability at the back and help convert opportunities into goals upfront. The Clever Boys have done some excellent work in the off-season by signing Chris Katongo, Henrico Botes, Dillon Sheppard, Buhle Mkhwanaze, Thulani Hlatswayo, Giorgi Nergadze and Dutch defender Kees Kwakman who played for NAC Breda. With a trimmed squad which is quick witted, agile and stronger than they were last season, they will be a reckonable force this season.
Orlando Pirates coach Vladimir Vermezovic is pleased with the way his side is playing so far this season despite their wastefulness in front of goal. The Buccaneers have played good football in their last two matches against SuperSport United and Moroka Swallows, but have only scored three times – once from a penalty and twice from open play. Orlando Pirates dominated Moroka Swallows at home, but suffered a late sting in the tail as the Birds stole all three points on the counter attack. Pirates lost the game against fellow Soweto club, Swallows, 2-1 at Orlando Stadium last Saturday night. The Soweto giants booked their spot in the semi-finals of the MTN8 with a 2-1 win over SuperSport United at Orlando Stadium. Pirates were in full control, dominating possession from the onset, with the Buccaneers midfield of Oupa Manyisa, Thandani Ntshumayelo and Mpho Makola pulling the strings for the hosts, while Thabo Matlaba proved to be handful down the left flank. However, Pirates were wasteful and should have easily slotted at least two more goals. The problem of scoring doesn’t seem to lie just with main striker Kermit Erasmus but the Buccaneers midfielders have also been wasteful. Pirates could introduce strikers Lehlohonolo Majoro and Lennox Bacela into the starting line-up to remedy the situation after the duo have been restricted to substitute appearances so far.
VERDICT: Orlando Pirates 13/10
Looking at recent encounters between these sides, Pirates have dominated, winning six of the last nine clashes, losing just once in 2011. The Buccaneers will be a determined team after losing to Swallows and should redeem themselves with a victory.