Sport

NEDBANK CUP

Orlando Pirates have one last underdog to vanquish in their pursuit of glory – dogged Sekhukhune

Orlando Pirates have one last underdog to vanquish in their pursuit of glory – dogged Sekhukhune
Paseka Mako of Orlando Pirates challenged during the DStv Premiership match between Orlando Pirates and Royal AM at Orlando Stadium on 3 May 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Orlando Pirates will take on Sekhukhune United in the Nedbank Cup final on Saturday. The former are an overwhelming favourite, while the latter will be out to derail the Soweto side’s victory parade.

Annually, the Nedbank Cup ignites the dreams of the many dogged South African sides. The Boerboels, the pit bulls, the German Shepherds and the Jack Russells. Everyone has a fair bite at South Africa’s primary soccer knockout contest.

Heading into the 2023 final, which is set for kick-off at 6pm at Tshwane’s Loftus Versfeld, Orlando Pirates will be the big dogs and Sekhukhune United the underdogs. However, the clash is likely to be tightly contested, despite the gulf in class.

There is no room for complacency in this competition, especially at this stage. Just ask Kaizer Chiefs, who were left nursing wounds after being bitten by TS Galaxy in the 2019 decider of the national slugfest — losing 1-0.

At that time, the Rockets were campaigning in the second tier of South African soccer. As for Chiefs … they were and still are one of the big dogs in SA’s soccer scene, though they have shown more bark than bite in recent years.

Brandon Truter (coach) of Sekhukhune United during the Sekhukhune United media open day at Dobsonville Stadium on 4 May 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

We are underdogs

Sekhukhune, in just their second season of top-flight soccer, will be more of a threat to Pirates than Galaxy were to Chiefs four years ago. 

But Babina Noko coach Brandon Truter was realistic about their chances during the final press conference before the match.       

“We are underdogs. Everything is in Pirates’ corner. But being underdogs also releases a bit of pressure. The pressure is all on Pirates to ensure they win another cup this season. For us, it’s about the occasion. We welcome the underdogs tag,” Truter told journalists at Nedbank’s headquarters in Sandton on Thursday.

“They finished above us in the league table. They are the champions of the MTN8. They’ve played in numerous cup finals. They won their last league game 4-0. That makes them overwhelming favourites for this game.”  

Truter’s counterpart José Riveiro did not shy away from the fact that the Sea Robbers will be carrying the bulk of the weight when it comes to expectations about the match.

“I take it. I accept it. We are Orlando Pirates. Any game we play we have to accept that role and that pressure. At the same time, it does not mean it will be an easy game, just because we are Orlando Pirates,” Riveiro told journalists.  

The Buccaneers are no strangers to the Nedbank Cup, having won the competition eight times in the past, the second most behind Chiefs. This will be the Soweto side’s 18th overall appearance in a Nedbank Cup final, which they last won in 2014.

By contrast, this is Sekhukhune’s first appearance in the final of a major competition.

They have the chance to claim just the second piece of major silverware in their history, having won the 2020/2021 Motsepe Foundation Championship title that earned them promotion to the top flight.

Babina Noko are unbeaten against the Sea Robbers in the league this season, winning one and drawing the other against Riveiro’s men.

“It’s a very difficult team. They showed it several times this season. Especially when they faced the ‘favourites’. So, we know what’s coming. We know the amount of work we will have to do in this game,” Riveiro stated.

José Riveiro during the Orlando Pirates media open day at Rand Stadium on 23 May 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images)

A game of chess

Truter hinted that his side would respect the attacking prowess of Pirates and play on the counterattack during the final. This is despite the fact that in their four Nedbank Cup matches heading into this decider, they netted 10 times (the most in the competition) while letting in just one goal.

In fact, the biggest victory in this year’s Nedbank Cup remains the 6-0 win for Sekhukhune over fourth-tier Liver Brothers in the last 32. However, Truter insisted that his team will probably park the bus against Pirates.

“It’s been a tactic for us. One that has won us a lot of games this season. We’d like to give the fans an open game, as much as we can. But the club’s chairman is also yearning for a trophy. So, we’ll see how we manage that process,” the coach stated.

Pirates reached consecutive Nedbank Cup finals in 2016 and 2017, but were vanquished by SuperSport United in both encounters. They are desperate to add another domestic trophy this campaign, to complement the MTN8 trophy they won at the beginning of the season.

If they manage to bag the Nedbank Cup, as well as finishing second behind league champions Mamelodi Sundowns, it will be a relatively good season for the Buccaneers. DM

The Gautrain has announced that it will offer a free service to spectators (with valid tickets upon boarding) attending the final in Pretoria.  

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