Orlando Pirates could not have asked for a better boost ahead of their last-16 Telkom Knockout tie against Chippa United.
Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic confirmed that ace winger Vincent Pule and goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo would both be in contention for places in the starting line-up against the Chilli Boys at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
Both players were signed by Pirates before the start of this campaign. But it is Pule, signed from Bidvest Wits, who has won the hearts of the Buccaneers’ faithful with his electric pace on the left side of midfield.
Khuzwayo‚ signed from Kaizer Chiefs‚ has on the other hand been nursing an injury that has kept him out for two and a half months of the season.
Playing against Chippa‚ a team Pirates defeated 1-0 in August in Port Elizabeth in their second league match‚ Sredojevic said he would need all his players available as he continues on his journey to win the first trophy since he rejoined Bucs at the beginning of last season.
Pirates are under pressure from their fans to win a trophy as the last piece of silverware dates back to the Nedbank Cup they won after defeating Wits 3-1 in Durban in 2014.
"Pule didn’t play in our last match against AmaZulu and he pulled out of the Bafana Bafana squad‚" said Sredojevic‚ referring to the player who has scored three league goals for Bucs in the 10 matches they have played.
"He [Pule] has come back and has worked very hard and is on the brink of being at his best. We are looking forward to have Pule’s best possible set pieces."
Sredojevic will be under pressure to win against Chippa ahead of the big Soweto derby against Chiefs at the FNB Stadium next Saturday.
Kaizer Chiefs striker Khama Billiat — the player coach Giovanni Solinas has called the best in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) — is doubtful for their Telkom Knockout clash against Black Leopards on Sunday.
Solinas did not elaborate at Thursday’s prematch media conference on the nature of Billiat’s injury for the last-16 clash at FNB Stadium (kickoff: 3.30pm). The coach was asked about the players Chiefs had on international duty for Fifa over the past two weekends and if any had returned injured.
"We have a small problem with Khama. So tomorrow [Friday]‚ with the proper examination‚ we will make a decision‚" Solinas said. "I think there is no serious problem. But at the moment I don’t know if Khama can play or not."
There seems a possibility Solinas is trying to mislead Leopards on an injury to Billiat.
The little forward played in the Warriors’ 1-1 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying draw against Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday. He had also played in Zimbabwe’s 2-1 win in the DRC on Saturday.
Solinas said Bafana Bafana players Itumeleng Khune and Ramahlwe Mphahlele‚ Uganda’s Godfrey Walusimbi and Teenage Hadebe had all returned unscathed. He said the players would resume training with Chiefs on Friday.