Mpho Makola insists Orlando Pirates are “mentally ready” to take on Bidvest Wits in the Nedbank Cup final, as the Buccaneers aim to overturn a season of falling at the last hurdle.
Pirates have played every game available in all the competitions they have competed in this season, and yet they remain in danger of finishing with an empty trophy cabinet for the second campaign in a row.
Platinum Stars proved the Buccaneers’ nemesis in the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout finals, while Al Ahly were ultimately too strong for Pirates in the final of the Champions League. It all illustrates perfectly the fine margins between a season filled with success, and one of abject disappointment.
If Pirates lose to Wits this afternoon, for all their efforts, the Bucs players will surely be left with a horribly hollow feeling in the pits of their stomachs.
And Vladimir Vermezovic’s side must not just overcome an excellent Clever Boys outfit on the field, they must also win the battle against the psychological effect of their previous final flops.
“Everybody has been giving it a good go in training, we look sharp, we are mentally ready,” says Makola. “This will sum up our season. We are not looking to the past three finals, we are looking at this one as an opportunity to redeem ourselves. We know the mistakes we made in the past three finals, and we are not about to do the same thing over again. Football is a funny game – we have been fortunate enough to play in a fourth final and can do the right thing.”
The Pirates midfielder has found it hard to break into the Pirates starting XI since joining from Free State Stars at the start of last season. He did not play in the Bucs’ campaigns in the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout this season, and made only late appearances off the bench in both legs of the Champions League final against Al Ahly.
The new year, however, has been far kinder to Makola, and he has become a regular name on the teamsheet of new Pirates coach Vermezovic. The skilful midfielder has had a major impact on Pirates’ progress in the Nedbank Cup, even scoring in the 2-1 semi-final win over Maritzburg United.
For all Pirates’ scars from previous cup finals they at least have, in Vermezovic, a man who was not around for last year’s disappointments. “I hope that can play a role (today),” says Makola. “He is a great coach, a great motivator, and believes in our style of football.”
Vermezovic does also have a decent record in cup competitions in South Africa, winning two Telkom Knockouts in his time at Kaizer Chiefs. The Pirates mentor, however, is arguably going up against a more masterful coach in the form of Gavin Hunt at Wits.
Hunt won an incredible three league titles in a row between 2007 and 2010 with SuperSport United, with the only criticism that he did not do so well in the cups over that time.
And Hunt has certainly changed that statistic of late, reaching three successive Nedbank Cup finals. He guided SuperSport to the title in 2012, thrashing Mamelodi Sundowns 3-0, before losing with Matsatsantsa to Kaizer Chiefs last year.
And now the former Hellenic player has done it again, this time at the helm of Wits, stunning Chiefs in the semi-finals in the process.
Wits finished one place higher, but 10 points ahead of Pirates in the league this season, with Sibusiso Vilakazi, the Clever Boys captain, enjoying a splendid season. If he and January signing Sthembiso Ngcobo can click this afternoon, Pirates’ defence could be in for a torrid time. But they could well miss the influence of Papy Faty in midfield, and if the wily Oupa Manyisa takes control in the middle of the park, the Buccaneers should have the upper hand. Even then, however, Pirates’ strike force will probably have to fire, and it has been utterly unreliable all campaign. - Saturday Star
P W D L F A
Pirates 10 3 3 4 11 11
Wits 10 4 3 3 11 11
Pirates 67 27 24 16 75 58
Wits 67 16 24 27 58 75
Previous cup meetings
1987 JPS semi, 1st leg: Wits 0-0 Pirates
1987 JPS semi, 2nd leg: Pirates 1-0 Wits – Basil Steenkamp
1989 BP Top 8, semi, 1st leg: Pirates 0-0 Wits
1989 BP Top 8, semi, 2nd leg: Wits 2-0 Pirates – Kevin Mudie, Zane Moosa
1989 Ohlsson’s Ch, 3rd place: Pirates 4-5 Wits – Meshack Mokwebo (og), Pitso Mosimane 2, Lawrence Maake; Abel Shongwe, Field, Meshack Mokwebo, Basil Gwangwa, Graham Boyle
1990 Bob Save, 2nd round: Pirates 2-0 Wits – Nick Seshweni, Mandla Sithole
1995 BP Top 8, semi: Pirates 0-0* Wits
1995 Coca-Cola Cup, final: Wits 1-0 Pirates – Benson Otiti
2004/05 SAA Supa8, 1st round: Wits 2-1 Pirates – Thierry Mouyouma, Benson Mhlongo; Jimmy Kauleza
2011/12 Telkom KO, final: Pirates 3-1 Wits – Thulasizwe Mbuyane, Daine Klate, Francis Chansa; Sifiso Myeni
Last 10 league meetings
2009/10: Pirates 1-1 Wits – Lucas Thwala (pen); Calvin Kadi
2009/10: Wits 0-0 Pirates
2010/11: Wits 1-1 Pirates – Ryan Haskins; Tlou Segolela
2010/11: Pirates 3-2 Wits – Francis Chansa 2, Katlego Mashego; Stanton Fredericks, Sifiso Vilakazi
2011/12: Wits 3-1 Pirates
Derrick Spencer, Ryan Chapman 2; Siyabonga Sangweni
2011/12: Pirates 0-0 Wits
2012/13: Pirates 2-0 Wits
Thabo Matlaba, Tlou Segolela
2012/13: Wits 0-1 Pirates
2013/14: Pirates 2-1 Wits
Helder Pelembe, Kermit Erasmus; Sifiso Vilakazi
2013/14: Wits 0-0 Pirates
Road to the final
Last 32: 22/02/14 – Thanda Royal Zulu (0-1) draw 3-3* – Ayanda Gcaba 90+1’ – Helder Pelembe 90+4’, Kermit Erasmus 109’
Last 16: 21/03/14 – A Santos (1-0) W 2-0 – Lennox Bacela 29’ pen, Rooi Mahamutsa 65’
Quarter-finals: 12/04/14 – A Sundowns (1-1) W 2-1 – Oupa Manyisa 6’ pen, Daine Klate 62’
Semi-finals: 03/05/14 – A Maritzburg (0-0) W 2-1 – Mario Booysen og 52’, Mpho Makola 60’
Last 32: 22/02/14 – A AmaBEE (0-0) W 2-0 – Kebede 56’, Asive Langwe 89’
Last 16: 22/03/14 – A AmaZulu (2-0) W 4-1 – Sthembiso Ngcobo 15’, Faty Papy 29’ 51’, Sibusiso Vilakazi 78’
Quarter-finals: 13/04/14 – A Celtic (2-1) W 2-1 – Sibusiso Vilakazi 25’, Shongwe 40’
Semi-finals: 03/05/14 – H Chiefs (1-1) D 2-2* – Sibusiso Vilakazi 23’ pen, Sthembiso Ngcobo 47’
Most wins and finals
Kaizer Chiefs 13 18
Orlando Pirates 7 14
Moroka Swallows 5 6
Mamelodi Sundowns 3 8
SuperSport United 3 4
Bidvest Wits 2 3
Santos 2 2
Jomo Cosmos 1 5
Ajax Cape Town 1 2
Witbank Aces 1 2
Nedbank Cup finals
2008 – Mpumalanga Black Aces 0-1 Mamelodi Sundowns
2009 – Moroka Swallows 1-0 University of Pretoria
2010 – AmaZulu 0-3 Bidvest Wits
2011 – Orlando Pirates 3-1 Black Leopards
2012 – SuperSport United 2-0 Mamelodi Sundowns
2013 – SuperSport United 0-1 Kaizer Chiefs
Stats by: Backpage Media