Johannesburg – Orlando Pirates are hoping to right the wrongs of last season and will start with an MTN8 quarter-final clash against tricky SuperSport United in Soweto on Saturday.
SuperSport beat Pirates twice in four attempts last season, drawing once, and losing the other match which happened to be the same clash as Saturday’s encounter.
The Buccaneers edged United on penalties in the opening round of the MTN8 a year ago.
“SuperSport is a serious opponent and beat us twice last season in the league,” Pirates coach Vladimir Vermezovic said of the top-eight meeting.
“In the MTN8 it was very difficult, we won on penalties. On Saturday, it’s going to be a big challenge for our team.”
Pirates went on to lose in the final of last year’s MTN8, but finished their season on a high, winning the Nedbank Cup in May.
The memories of that cup success have long gone and Vermezovic warned that United will once again pose a threat, despite a number of players departing the Pretoria club during the off-season.
“We’ve watched some of their games and we know also that they’ve lost a couple of players, but they have also signed excellent players,” Vermezovic said.
Players who have left the United fold include Edwin Gyimah, Sibusiso Zuma, Bevan Fransman and Mame Niang, who Vermezovic described as “a very dangerous player”.
“On the other side, they have signed excellent players. Defender Clayton Daniels and Michael Morton in midfield can make big trouble for us.”
Matsatsantsa said goodbye to long-serving skipper Fransman, who has joined Bloemfontein Celtic, and Ghanaian midfielder Gyimah, who made a shock move to Mpumalanga Black Aces.
SuperSport went about replacing the pair with Daniels and Morton, while strengthening their squad with a number of Premiership regulars, such as Dove Wome and Thamsanqa Teyise.
SuperSport coach Cavin Johnson expected a similar Pirates team to take to the field than the one that dominated much of their last campaign.
“I don’t think they have brought in anybody that will take over an Oupa Manyisa position, or a Siyabonga Sangweni, or a Lucky Lekgwathi or Senzo’s Meyiwa position, so they’ll probably have the same type of players playing against us,” Johnson said.
“Maybe one or two changes, whereas we have three or four players that will change the complexion of the team, so we’re expecting a very good and hard game.”
Looking back to last season’s MTN8 clash, he was hopeful that the new additions would step in to fill the void left behind by Niang and Mogorosi Gabonamong.
“For me it is about football. If football moves the players around then I wish them the best,” Johnson said.
“There are always teams that will come and buy your players and you will always go and buy other teams' players. That's the nature of the game.
“The players are looking sharp and they are ready for the challenge.” – Sapa