Johannesburg – A confident Roger de Sa says playing in the final of the Caf Champions League is the only motivation his players need as the Sea Robbers gear-up for their first-leg meeting with Egyptian giants Al-Ahly in Soweto on Saturday.
“When you’re playing in a Champions League final, motivation is not a problem,” De Sa said ahead of the biggest encounter of his coaching career.
“Guys arrive for training, they’re keen to play and they know what’s at stake.
“They put the effort in and they fight for those 11 starting jerseys. The players have been fantastic throughout – they’re a fantastic bunch of players and they are very well motivated. They've tasted success in the past and they want more. It’s made my job a lot easier.”
Pirates, the only South African team to have won the continent's premier club competition, will be aiming for a second Champions League title against a team which has reached the final no fewer than 10 times.
Pirates lifted the then-named African Cup of Champions Clubs title in 1995, beating ASEC Abidjan of the Ivory Coast 3-2 in a two-legged final.
The Buccaneers have already played Ahly twice in this year’s tournament, having been drawn in the same group during the round-robin stages.
But De Sa, whose team claimed a 3-0 victory in Egypt and a goalless draw in Soweto, insisted the seven-time African champions would be a much improved side in the final, owing to their experience in playing crucial games.
“They haven’t been particularly good throughout the competition, but they are there (in the final),” De Sa said.
“They've managed to squeeze out results and do the business. That’s what they are good at and they know how to play in two-legged games as well.
“Home and away they’re very good. So we have to be at our best. It’s important that we get a good start and hopefully we can take something with us.”
Pirates finished second in their group – behind Ahly – and as a result, were drawn to play at home first, handing the Egyptians the advantage of playing on home soil during the second leg when aggregate scores come into play.
“If you ask anybody, it’s always favourable to play away first,” De Sa said of the two-legged encounter.
“Because Ahly finished above us in the group stages, they get to play away first and home in the second leg.
“It’s known that it’s favourable to play your second leg at home with your crowd and you play for the result that you need.
“(But), we’ve developed a very good mental attitude that we are able to go away and get results and I think that’s what has made us stronger.”
Despite feeling the pressure of being in a massive, internationally-watched final, the former Moroka Swallows and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper said his team had enjoyed the build-up to the big fixture.
“We’re looking forward to it, enjoying the moment and having a good time. It’s an experience of a lifetime for us and we can only try our best.
“We don’t know when the next time is going to be. We’d like it to be every year, that would be nice.
“We’ve waited 18 years for this opportunity… take it.” – Sapa