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Happy Jele insists Orlando Pirates are not in league title race

Even though a win in the Soweto derby on Saturday would move Orlando Pirates within three points of Kaizer Chiefs, club captain Happy Jele insisted they were not challengers for the title.

Picture: @orlandopirates/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - Ahead of the second Soweto derby of the Absa Premiership season against Kaizer Chiefs, Happy Jele insisted that Orlando Pirates were not involved in the title race.

The two teams will meet at FNB Stadium on Saturday, with Chiefs looking to get back to winning ways after suffering defeat to Maritzburg United in the league and a Nedbank Cup exit to Highlands Park on Saturday.

Going into the game, the Buccaneers are six points behind their log leading rivals but having played a game more.

Even though a win on Saturday would move them within three points of Chiefs, club captain Jele insisted they were not challengers for the title.

“We are not in a title race,” Jele said on Tuesday. “Remember two months ago we were 19 points behind, so now we are in a title race? It’s not happening. If you look at it, some of the guys (Mamelodi Sundowns and Chiefs) have a game in hand so they can still pick up some points. For us, it’s just to finish in a good position at the end of the season”.

Speaking on what a win for Pirates would mean in the overall title challenge, assistant coach Fadlu Davids believed that it would hand the incentive to Sundowns, who were seeking a record-extending tenth league crown.

“If we get three points it would make things interesting for Sundowns. They will be one point behind and I’m sure they will win their match (in hand). Chiefs still have a game in hand and that will take us back to four points again."

Since Josef Zinnbauer’s appointment in December 2019, Pirates have picked up 19 points from their seven league encounters under him.

Davids believed that collective responsibility was key to their turnaround, after struggling for wins under interim head coach Rulani Mokwena.

"The players came to a point where they said ‘enough is enough’ and they really took to the new coach and decided it’s time that we start getting results. So it’s a collective, what happened in the past three years and what’s happened now from experiences we went through."