Preview - Pirates v Leopards
Now that Orlando Pirates' agonising trudge towards relegation is far from over, a revival of their fighting spirit and a bit of extra depth could be a perfect boost for them when they hold fellow-strugglers Black Leopards in a must-win Castle Premiership match at Ellis Park Stadium on Wednesday evening (kick-off 8pm).
Despite an advantage of four games in hand, Pirates coach Bibey Mutombo acknowledged this week that this was crunch-time to determine who would go a long way to discover who really has the stomach for a gruelling title race.
Pirates are currently placed a disappointing 13th position in the Premiership standings on 14 points; the same as their opponents who have played three matches more.
The DRC-born Mutombo, however, is super-confident and pronounced himself "unafraid of the future", following yet another inept display when they were held to a goalless draw by archrivals Moroka Swallows on Saturday.
The 'Buccaneers' are treading on unfamiliar ground, but Mutombo - who faces his former team for the second time in a space of a week, after the first fixture was called off because of bad weather - remains defiant that three points, and nothing less than that, is what they are gunning for.
"I had my first glimpse of the team and from now on, is a strong thrust to the top standings," said Mutombo.
"We had our moments where we could have snatched a win against Swallows, but failed where it matters most - in front of goals."
He added, however: "The spirit has never been so sparkling and what a better way to record my first win against my former team..
"The first 25 minutes will be crucial and we need to stamp our authority from the start. We have no injury worries and it is all system go."
With a rejuvenated Benedict Vilakazi - who has surely shaken off the weariness that blighted his promising career - again playing with purpose, expect Pirates to register their first win of the New Year. A victory that their fans are really hungry for.
'Lidoda Duvha' have also been on the road for the past four matches and are in an inspired mood after salvaging a point by holding current pace-setters Silvers Stars to a 0-0 draw at the weekend.
"We did well against Stars and I am sure we will continue to do well. We just need a win under our belt and from there, people will see a totally and committed Leopards side," towering Leopards captain Fernando Matola said this week.
"We now what to expect against Pirates and neither side can afford to lose.
"They have two of our players, Mulondo Sikhwivhilu and Rudzani Ramudzuli who will want to prove a point, but we are ready."
Orlando Pirates - Benedict Vilakazi:
Vilakazi is playing with energy and purpose and if anyone can inspire Pirates to shake off their poor form, then 'Tso' is that man.
Black Leopards - Fernando Matola:
The Leopards skipper insists that Pirates' poor form will not end when they meet Leopards at Ellis Park and 'Nando' will no doubt try to inspire his team to a precious three points.