DURBAN - The march to the final of the Nedbank Cup could be the turning point for Orlando Pirates.
After Pirates edged Golden Arrows 1-0 in the semi-final in Durban on Sunday, both coaches agreed that the Buccaneers are sailing in the right direction.
In a season where Pirates are likely to finish outside the top eight for the first time in PSL history, lifting the Nedbank Cup would provide some consolation and a bit of cheer to remember their 80th anniversary.
Beating SuperSport United in a month’s time at the Moses Mabhida Stadium comes with a handy R7 million winner’s cheque, and perhaps more importantly entry into the Caf Confederation Cup.
After defender Abbubaker Mobara’s first-half winner settled the clash at the Princess Magogo Stadium, Arrows coach Clinton Larsen and his counterpart Kjell Jonevret felt differently about which team deserved to win, but both believed Pirates would improve.
“This has been a troubled season and I can understand that a lot of people around the club and the supporters, are a little bit disappointed, and I hope that this can help us a little bit,” said Jonevret.
"I’m happy for the players, everyone working in the club and especially the supporters. Nobody can say we were not the better team and deserved to go to the final over 90 minutes.
“When we win, it’s perfect. Step by step we have a lot of things to develop and be better at, but at least we’re stable now, and it’s not easy to beat us. But the game should be dead at halftime. We should be more effective and clinical when we have the chances.”
Arrows pressured Pirates in a somewhat one-sided second half and were unlucky not to equalise in optional time when Nduduzo Sibiya’s free-kick cannoned off the crossbar. Larsen expects the Soweto giants to grow in confidence and turn the corner.
“I don’t think they were their fluent selves; they played in patches. Once they got a goal the crowd got behind them and they played for a few minutes and started to entertain, but I thought we had their number.
“I believe this Pirates team can only get stronger from this point,” said Larsen who won the PSL with Pirates as a player in 2000-01.
Although he expects Pirates to be a tougher opponent when Arrows host them again, in the final league game of the season on Saturday, Larsen feels his charges will believe they can beat the Buccaneers.
“(This performance) gives us motivation, knowing we can go into that game and beat this team. We came very close to doing it, and we believe with a few adjustments and improvements we can go on to win it.
“I’m sure they would also like to finish with a win in the league, and not finish 11th or 12th. They will put out a strong team, and so will we,” Larsen added.
Jonevret meanwhile conceded that a top-eight finish was a long shot.
“As they say it’s not over until the fat lady sings, but of course we will try to win the game. We should have won against Ajax (Cape Town) to have a chance (for the top eight),” he said.