Pirates begin quest for back to back Nedbank triumphs

ORLANDO Pirates captain Tapelo Xoki begins a mission to lead The Ghots to back-to-back Nedbank Cup titles as he is seen here celebrating a goal with teammates. | BackpagePix

ORLANDO Pirates captain Tapelo Xoki begins a mission to lead The Ghots to back-to-back Nedbank Cup titles as he is seen here celebrating a goal with teammates. | BackpagePix

Published Feb 23, 2024


ONLY once since financial giants Nedbank took over as sponsors of South Africa’s premier knockout cup competition, the Nedbank Cup, has a team won and defended their title.

That honour belongs to SuperSport United who reigned victorious in 2016 and held on to their title the following year both under the tutelage of Stuart Baxter.

In both victories, Matsatsantsa a Pitori got the better of Orlando Pirates in five goal thrillers that ended 3-2 and 4-1 at the Peter Mokaba and the Moses Mabhida Stadiums respectively.

As this year’s Nedbank Cup first round matches draw to a close this weekend, the local football fraternity is eager to see if Pirates can make up for those defeats by joining Matsatsantsa on that exclusive list of back-to-back Nedbank Cup champions.

It’s a tough ask for the Buccaneers who beat Sekhukhune United 2-1 in last year’s final, what with Jose Riveiro’s team also looking to seriously contest for the Champions League spot by securing a runners-up position in the domestic championships.

The closest any team has come to emulating SuperSport was two seasons ago when Marumo Gallants lost to Mamelodi Sundowns in the final having won the competition the season prior to that albeit under a different name – Tshakhuma.

Pirates though are a pedigreed outfit that has the wherewithal to can succeed where many have failed and they begin their campaign to hold on to their title, with what on paper appears, a pretty easy Round of 32 clash against third-tied outfit, Crystal Lake.

Easy though is not a word the Buccaneers’ coach would use, the fact is the multitudes of The Ghost will descend upon the Mbombela Stadium this afternoon anticipating the equivalent of a Sunday morning stroll in the park for their team.

“We want to replicate the performance like we did last year and we must start from the beginning. We are against an unknown team playing in the lower league so it looks easy, but it is never easy,” Riveriro warned during a pre-match media conference.

Last year’s march to Nedbank Cup glory taught the Spaniard about the potential banana skin nature of clashes such as the one of this afternoon and he believes his players are similarly aware they cannot join their supporters’ chorus of this being an easy match.

“We have experience, from last season, of facing teams from the lower division. We know how difficult it is so we go (into the match against Lake) with the intention to show the maximum respect for our opponent.

“Last season we faced FC All Stars, Venda Academy against whom we almost played penalties and you know the story of Dondol Stars,” he told the gathered media – reflecting on Pirates’ run to glory that saw them meeting numerous lower division side and not having it easy at al.

“So, there’s nothing that I have to tell the players. They have to use their imagination in these types of games.”

The Pirates players know it won’t be a walkover against Crystal Lake already. Perhaps what the young Spaniard must tell them is that they can put their names up in bright lights by becoming only the second team to win the Nedbank Cup back-to-back, the fact the competition is only just beginning notwithstanding.

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Nedbank Cup