Pirates ready for African adventure

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iol spt dec11 Pirates Gallo Images Roger de Sa yesterday refused to start contemplating Orlando Pirates potential Caf Champions League second round clash with DRC giants TP Mazembe. Photo by Lefty Shivambu

Roger de Sa yesterday refused to start contemplating Orlando Pirates’ potential Caf Champions League second round clash with DRC giants TP Mazembe, saying he prefers to take things “one match at a time”.

The Buccaneers are likely to have to overcome the three-time African champions in order to book a place in the money- spinning group stages of the continent’s premier club competition.

Pirates were drawn to first face Champions League debutants Djabal of the Comoros in the preliminary round immediately after the Africa Cup of Nations break on the weekend of February 15 to 17 with the second leg matches scheduled for the beginning of March.

Success in this tie will see the Absa Premiership champions then face either Zambia’s Zanaco or Mbabane Swallows from Swaziland with TP Mazembe looming thereafter.

The Congolese giants have a bye in the preliminary round and should be too strong for either of Mozambique’s Maxaquenne or Mochudi Centre Chiefs from Botswana whom they’ll meet in the first round.

De Sa, however, is not thinking that far ahead.

“It’s nice to hear we’re going to play a team that’s new in the competition, maybe we’ll go a bit further than the club did last time around,” he said in reference to the Buccaneers’ first stage exit this year.

“We’ve spoken about the Champions League with the chairman and while we want to win it, the fact is at Pirates we try to do well in everything. It’s a challenge I have and we all have, to win every competition we play in because of the stature of the club.

“But we can’t look to far ahead, we have to first go to the Comoros and try to go past that first hurdle. We can’t start worrying about the group stage or even TP Mazembe. We have to take it match-by-match, one step at a time.”

De Sa’s standpoint notwithstanding, Pirates will have to eventually start thinking of Africa’s only side to ever reach the World Club Cup finals, Mazembe having achieved this feat in two years ago. Such is owner Moise Katumbi’s lofty ambitions for the club that he has bought two jets for the club’s travels and is building a big centre for the club’s tainting and players’ lodging. Their stadium has also been given a facelift and boasts an artificial pitch that has replaced the previous cabbage patch.

De Sa admits that the continental competition presents the club with a totally different challenge than the local scene.

“It’s a different battle. We’ve got to play six matches to get into the group stage and we need to have a different kind of focus. This one needs players with a strong mental attitude; it’s not just about football – it is about being able to withstand different kind of challenges on and off the pitch.”

And for this reason, De Sa might solidify the squad in January: “We might try and beef up with one or two players just so we’re able to be competitive on all fronts.”

In the Confederation Cup, Nedbank Cup champions SuperSport United were drawn to face the DRC’s Don Bosco – a lower division club making their debut in continental competition. - The Star

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