Pressure will be on Pirates

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Wits's assistant coach Paul Johnson believes Orlando Pirates will be under enormous pressure to win the Nedbank Cup final. Photo by: Duif du Toit

Durban – The pressure will be on Orlando Pirates in the Nedbank Cup final in Durban on Saturday, said opponents Wits's assistant coach Paul Johnson.

“It's naturally going to be tough on them. They've got that big cloud of three final defeats hanging over them,” Johnson said on Thursday.

“It will be a massive test of character for those boys to overcome that and see how they perform. Is it going to be too much for them and can they overcome that?”

The Buccaneers have already lost three finals this season, finishing runners-up in the MTN8, CAF Champions League and Telkom Knockout.

However, his counterpart, Pirates' assistant Eric Tinkler disagreed, saying the clash at the Moses Mabhida Stadium was a fresh opportunity for the Johannesburg side to redeem themselves.

They were beaten by Platinum Stars in the two previous domestic finals and fell at the final hurdle to Egyptian side Al-Ahly in Africa's premier club competition.

“We're not putting the players under pressure. We've got to put what's in the past behind us and just look forward to the game that's coming up,” Tinkler said.

“It's important to leave the history behind and we keep telling the players that. They need to go into this game, enjoying and relishing the experience of playing in a cup final.

“Not everyone gets the opportunity to do it.”

Looking back at the finals lost by Pirates, Tinkler said it was not a case of playing poorly but losing focus towards the end of the matches.

“We played exceptional football in every one of them, we just lost concentration at the last minute,” he said.

“That's how important it is to maintain the concentration and focus throughout the 96 minutes you play or the 106 minutes you play.”

Tinkler, a former Bafana Bafana player and ex-Wits assistant, said the hunger within the squad to take something out of a trophyless season was extremely high.

“We finished second in the other three and nobody is happy with that. Everyone wants to redeem themselves.

“Nobody likes to finish second, nobody remembers who finished second, so it's obviously important now for us to get the result against Wits in what is our last opportunity to salvage some pride from the season.”

The Students have also enjoyed an impressive campaign, claiming their highest ever points tally in the league where they ended third.

A key ingredient to that has been the arrival of Gavin Hunt from SuperSport United at the start of the term.

The Wits coach will be contesting his third straight Nedbank Cup final after winning the title with Matsatsantsa in 2011/12 and losing in the decider last year.

“Everyone knows Gavin is shrewd customer to deal with, but he's a winner,” Johnson said.

“I think the biggest change in us as a club has been a winning mentality.

“It's very important for us to go out there on Saturday and top our season off with silverware as opposed to being a respectable season.” – Sapa


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