Johannesburg – For Orlando Pirates to play the role of the underdogs going into Saturday’s Telkom Knockout final against Platinum Stars does, frankly, seem a little ridiculous.
Yet that is how the Buccaneers’ players were touting themselves at Rand Stadium on Wednesday, ahead of the side’s third cup final of the season so far.
Pirates were stunned by Dikwena in the MTN8 final earlier in the season, and then taken down by the might of Al Ahly in the Champions League.
A third defeat in a final before the year is out has to be a horrible thought for any Pirate, and the Bucs seemed keen to deflect the pressure as much as possible.
“They (Stars) are a good side and obviously it was no fluke that they beat us (in the MTN8), it was fair and square, albeit on penalties,” said winger Daine Klate.
“I think they go into the game as favourites. They have been doing well in the last few weeks since they played the final against us … I don’t think we would like to lose three finals in a row. Having said that, it will not be a walkover. We are looking forward to the game.”
Captain Lucky Lekgwathi concurred with Klate about Pirates’ underdogs status.
“We are underdogs, they beat us and they are on top of their game,” said Lekgwathi.
“If you look at the (PSL) log, we are bottom and they are third, they are favourites. For us, we don’t want to put ourselves under pressure, we have already been in two finals, and we want to make our supporters happy by winning the trophy, and giving them an early Christmas present.”
The simple fact, however, is that Pirates cannot possibly be regarded as underdogs against Stars, given their resources and support base in comparison to the Phokeng side.
If Pirates are bottom of the league, they have multiple games in hand on the rest, and have done impressively well to reach two domestic finals and the Champions League showpiece, even if they have, thus far, fallen at the final hurdle.
Pirates can also draw heart from the fact that in the MTN8 final, it was they who wasted the more presentable opportunities to take down Stars before the lottery of the penalty shootout.
“I think we played very well, we outclassed them, looking at the statistics, we managed to keep ball possession, our only problem was scoring goals,” added Lekgwathi.
“We lost concentration with their goal, now we must focus for the whole 90 minutes and that will win the trophy.”
Pirates are going into this game on the back of a disappointing league defeat to Bloemfontein Celtic on Saturday night, where they were extremely sloppy in defence.
Lekgwathi believes Pirates have learnt their lesson, and can be helped this weekend by the return of Happy Jele from suspension and Rooi Mahamutsa and Oupa Manyisa from injury.
“After each game we go back to the drawing board to analyse the game and rectify our mistakes,” said Lekgwathi .
“Against Celtic we didn’t play well. Oupa, Mahamutsa and Jele were not playing and they are regulars. We want to welcome them back and make sure they come and help us win the cup.”
Lekgwathi also picked out Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, the venue of Saturday’s final, as a good stadium for the Buccaneers.
“We hope the fans come in numbers and we don’t want to disappoint them. In the last final at Mbombela (the 2011 Nedbank Cup) we played Black Leopards and won. We want history to repeat itself, Mbombela is our home away from home and we want to make sure we can go and make our supporters happy again.”