Johannesburg – Lucky Lekgwathi has good reasons to believe Orlando Pirates are in for a case of “third-time lucky” in the Caf Champions League.
Twice the Buccaneers have been eliminated in the preliminary stage of the continent’s premier club competition having gone in amidst talk Lekgwathi and Co will emulate the class of ’95 and capture the title.
“We’ve learnt very valuable lessons from those two defeats,” the Pirates captain said of their losses to Botswana’s Centre Chiefs and Angolan side Recreativo de Libolo. “The biggest one lesson, however, is never underestimate the opposition.”
Both Chiefs and Libolo were virtual unknowns to South Africans while Pirates, too, went into the matches a bit cocky.
“We watched their videos and most of the players, especially the younger ones, felt the opposition were weak and expected a walkover. But we got hurt badly.”
Gaborone United beat them on the away goal rule in 2010 and last year an aggregate 4-2 defeat by Libolo saw Irvin Khoza’s dream of a Champions League title to mark his club’s 70th anniversary disappear faster than you can say Up the Bucs.
Pirates played both their home matches in Port Elizabeth (PE) and were particularly blamed for taking the Angolan side to a coastal venue.
For this year’s campaign, Roger de Sa’s team are doing things very differently even though the opposition are similar to previous ones – a small outfit with little history in continental competition.
Djabal from the Comoros provide the first stumbling block to the Sea Robbers’ quest for a second star on their jersey to add to the one earned by Jerry Sikhosana, Edward Motale, Gavin Lane et al back in 1995.
“We don’t know anything about them,” he said of the team they host on Saturday night.
“And we’re keeping it that way. No watching videos this time, lest we make mistakes of the previous years. We are going into the match prepared for a tough fight against a good side, that’s our attitude.”
The no-video decision is not the only ploy the Buccaneers are employing as they endeavour to reach the first round.
“And we’re not playing in PE this time. We are taking them to Orlando (Stadium) where we usually do well. We’ll have our regular fans there and we know that they do not take kindly to us not winning and we don’t like to disappoint them.”
Wednesday’s 1-0 league over SuperSport United at the same venue has lifted the team’s spirits, Lekgwathi says: “It was very good to win after being on a very long break. And while we are taking things one game at a time, it is a confident booster to go into the Champions League match on the back of a win.”
That Champions League winner, Onyekachi Okonkwo, and Africa Cup of Nations winner Collins Mbesuma are part of the team that can only serve to add to the team’s chances.
“They are highly experienced and know what it is to play in the continental competitions. Their contribution is going to be invaluable,” explained Lekgwathi, adding that their “youngsters” are also more experienced now.
“We had Senzo (Meyiwa, goalkeeper), Thabo (Matlaba) and Oupa (Manyisa) in the squad (SA national team) during Afcon. Thabo played against Cape Verde and Oupa came on as a sub against Angola. They are all now more confident and that will only serve the team well.”
Lekgwathi better hope it all comes together if he is to realise his dream of adding the Champions League title to a host of all local ones he already has as the Buccaneers’ captain. – The Star