Orlando Pirates are set to welcome rivals Swallows FC to the Orlando Stadium in their DStv Premiership opener to kickstart the new campaign with the original Soweto derby on Saturday afternoon.
The Buccaneers have been working hard to prepare for the campaign ahead and have strengthened their squad by acquiring the services of five new players including Nkosinathi Sibisi, Tapelo Xoki, Bienvenu Eva Nga, Evidence Makgopa and Miguel Timm.
The likes of Sandile Mthethwa, Justice Chabalala, Austin Muwowo, Thabiso Sesame, Monnapule Saleng, Katlego Cwinyane and Simiso Wandile Bophela have also returned from loan, while the club has cleaned shop by releasing a total of 17 players.
Meanwhile, Swallows have also been busy bolstering their squad with six new additions to the squad which include Waseem Isaacs, Lindokuhle Mtshali, Thakasani Mbanjwa, Keegan Allan, Darrel Matsheke and Lebohang Lesako.
Daniel Gozar is the only other player to return from his loan spell at Black Leopards, with 10 players parting ways with the club most notably Ruzaigh Gamildien, Dillan Solomons and Kamohelo Mahlatsi.
Pirates finished the 2021-22 campaign in sixth position with 44 points after winning 10 games, 14 draws and conceding six defeats in 30 matches, while the Dube Birds managed to avoid relegation winning the playoffs after finishing in 15th place in the standings last term.
New Pirates boss Jose Riveiro says: “It’s like pressure. It’s something that we like. As coaches we are not thinking about what’s going to happen if we don’t win,” Riveiro said on making an impact at the club.
“We enjoy the pressure that comes with the millions of people coming to the stadium and watching from home. It’s a big responsibility, of course, but it makes us privileged.
“Mandla is valuable and active in our coaching staff. He’s going to bring a lot of experience and knowledge about the league, players and other coaches,” he said.
“We are learning with him as well. He’s an important part of the quick process that we are trying to do in order to prepare for the upcoming season.”
Opposition mentor Dylan Kerr adds: “It’s all new to me. It’s like I am in a dream and I am looking forward to it.
“I knew after the play-offs that I was coming back to Swallows, but you know how the press talks. It’s ridiculous how many people applied for the job from all over the world. It’s disrespectful to people like myself that I knew, but the media didn’t know about.
“But the chairman and I knew that I was coming back and we knew what we had to do. We need to change the perception of what happened last year for the better.”
When Pirates and Swallows went head-to-head in the two-legged fixture last season, the Buccaneers claimed a 1-0 win in the first leg thanks to a goal from Tshegofatso Mabasa before playing out to a 1-1 draw in the return leg at Dobsonville Stadium.
Riveiro will have a fully fit squad for their opening match against their Soweto rivals, while Dylan Kerr is expected to be without the services of goalkeeper Virgil Vries, who is sidelined with a knee injury.
New signing Bienvenu Eva Nga will be leading the line for the Buccaneers up front as he looks to replicate the form that saw him finish as Chippa United’s top scorer last season with 10 goals in 30 appearances.
Waseem Isaacs will be looking to rediscover his form at his new club following a disappointing campaign last season in which he only found the back of the net once in 19 league appearances.
However, Eva Nga and Isaacs have both failed to score a goal in their last five games for Chippa and Stellies at the end of last season.
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