Cape Town - Orlando Pirates assistant coach Rulani Mokwena admits they came close to landing Khama Billiat but dismissed the notion that Kaizer Chiefs won the race for his signature.
The Zimbabwe international ended a successful five-year spell with Mamelodi Sundowns when he joined Amakhosi on a free transfer ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.
Pirates had been linked with a move for Billiat after he'd entered the final six months of his contract at Chloorkop, although nothing materialised and the 28-year-old eventually signed for their arch-rivals.
Ahead of the 66th Soweto derby on Saturday at the FNB Stadium, Mokwena insisted that the Buccaneers decided against pursuing a deal for the Premiership star, partly due to his injury record.
"I still have a very good relationship with Khama. I speak [to him]. I know that you guys know that we tried to sign Khama‚" said Mokwena, who worked with Billiat as part of Pitso Mosimane's coaching staff at Sundowns.
"We decided at the last moment not to sign Khama. We had lots of talks with Khama - myself and Khama.
"We were very close to bringing Khama to the black and white. But we decided on protecting the change-room more than anything else‚ because of the ratio between the expense and the profit.
"And when I say expense‚ I am not talking about the salary‚ because I've heard a lot of talk about that. But also, the expense with regards to injuries and even certain other factors‚ and the profit that we would get‚ and we thought that it would not make sense.
"So, it's not that Pirates lost out on the race to sign Khama. Pirates didn't lose out on the race to sign Khama. Pirates decided not to sign Khama."
Billiat sustained a back injury while on international duty and is rated doubtful for the sold-out clash against Bucs, after missing the Telkom Knockout penalty shootout victory over Black Leopards on Sunday.