Matching Sundowns is Pirates’ next poser

TSHEGOFATSO Mabasa of Orlando Pirates celebrates scoring against SuperSport United at Orlando Stadium on Saturday. BackpagePix

TSHEGOFATSO Mabasa of Orlando Pirates celebrates scoring against SuperSport United at Orlando Stadium on Saturday. BackpagePix

Published May 27, 2024



CAF Champions League football is in the bag. Bravo! But what’s new really, for even last season, Orlando Pirates qualified for the continent’s premier club knockout football competition.

Distant runners-up to the marauding Mamelodi Sundowns, who captured their seventh league title in a row, the Buccaneers again played the bridesmaids role in local football’s elite league.

They could well still win the Nedbank Cup on Saturday afternoon when they face Sundowns in the final in Mbombela to replicate last season’s feat, but is that something worth celebrating for one of the country’s top clubs?

Their fans will probably think so. After all, their bitter rivals Kaizer Chiefs had a stinker yet again, Amakhosi failing to finish in the top eight as they occupied 10th place – their worst finish in the Premiership era.

Coach of Orlando Pirates Jose Riveiro. | BackpagePix

Pirates coach Jose Riveiro was honest in his assessment of their season after their 1-1 draw against SuperSport United on final matchday at Orlando Stadium.

“It’s fantastic that Pirates are going to be in the Champions League again next season. I am proud that Pirates will represent South Africa on the continent and hopefully we will do better than last time,” the Spaniard said, in reference to the Buccaneers’ shock preliminary round elimination by Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy.

“I am so proud and happy because it is not easy, we should not undermine what it means to be in the Champions League. But I am not celebrating being second (in the Premiership); we celebrate being in the Champions League.

“We got the right to be there, and it is something very important for the club. But being 23 points behind the first one (Sundowns) is not a huge achievement.

“Our objective from now is how can we reduce the gap with whoever is leading the log because there’s too much distance between first and second, even though we were fighting with a team that is not famous for dropping points frequently.”

Reflecting on their campaign, Riveiro admitted that Pirates were sometimes their own worst enemy.

“There were things we could not control, but there were things in our own hands. The last two games, having the chance to consolidate second spot but giving away the points that we did (losses to Richards Bay and TS Galaxy), is something that we need to reflect on and understand why because it is our responsibility.

“We would like to be on the top, no doubt. But I am sure the Buccaneers (supporters) are proud of these boys and are really optimistic about the future.”

That might well be, although such was Sundowns’ dominance of the domestic championship this campaign that it is hard to see just how Pirates – or any of the other 14 teams – can stop them from winning the league title again next season.

But with Sundowns failing to go the entire season unbeaten after losing 1-0 to Cape Town City on Saturday, Riveiro and Pirates have an opportunity to show that there really is nothing invincible about Rulani Mokwena’s team by beating them in the cup final on Saturday.

Do that and Pirates will go into next season and the Champions League with huge confidence.