Orlando Pirates may have torched the flames ahead of their sold out ABSA Premiership Soweto derby showdown with Kaizer Chiefs with the Buccaneers claiming they opted out of signing Khama Billiat before he moved to Amakhosi.

Billiat is poised to play an influential role in his first Soweto Derby since joining Chiefs at the start of the season following the expiry of his contract with Mamelodi Sundowns.

Pirates are understood to have made the first steps to secure the Zimbabwean international when he made it clear that he would not be renewing his deal with Sundowns.

There have been reports that the two parties failed to agree terms, resulting in Chiefs latching on to capture the talented midfielder.

But Pirates claim not to have lost the race for Billiat’s signature, but chose not to sign him for other reasons.

The Buccaneers assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena yesterday revealed his team dropped their bid to bring Billiat at the Orlando Stadium due to other factors.

Pirates were reported to have been in talks with the player before he joined Amakhosi as a free agent from Mamelodi Sundowns.

Billiat was said to have been offered a signing on fee of R2 million, but rejected it, triggering speculation that Chiefs put a better deal on the table. But, according to IOL, a South African news website, Mokwena said: “We had lots of talks with Khama, myself and the player. We were very close to bringing him to the black and white. But we decided to protect the changing room more than anything else.”

The gaffer said the decision came after considering factors like injuries.

“The ratio between the expense, and when I say expense I am not only talking about the salary because I heard a lot of talk about that. But the expense with regards to injuries, and certain other factors and for the profit that we thought we would get, we thought it did not make sense (to sign the player),” Mokwena added.

While Pirates apparently decided against signing Billiat due to his “deteriorating form” at Sundowns, if the claims by Mokwena are anything to go by, the midfielder has since regained top form at Amakhosi.

The high-flying Billiat has settled in well at his new home, scoring five goals and dishing four assists in the 13 appearances he has made in all competitions so far this season.

His exploits have seen him winning the ABSA Premiership September Player of the Month.

Kaizer Chiefs supporters are now trooping back to the stadiums as their team is once again playing with the zest they are known for, with Billiat at the thick of things.

Billiat is also set to play a key role in the Soweto Derby on Saturday.

He is in such devastating form that the entire Orlando Pirates team are wary of his instinctive skills which could decide one of the biggest derbies in the continent.

While Billiat will line up for Amakhosi along with veteran compatriot Willard Katsande as well as Teenage Hadebe, other Zimbabweans Kuda Mahachi and Marshal Munetsi will be hoping to triumph in Pirates colours as the five countrymen take part in the famous encounter.

So much will be at stake as the two biggest teams in the South African Premiership will be chasing more than just three points.

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