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Fit-again Vincent Pule ready to emerge as Orlando Pirates' saviour in Nigeria

FILE - Vincent Pule enjoys the moment after scoring for Orlando Pirates against SuperSport United in the DStv Premiership. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

FILE - Vincent Pule enjoys the moment after scoring for Orlando Pirates against SuperSport United in the DStv Premiership. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published May 17, 2022

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Cape Town — The timely return of Vincent 'Shuffle' Pule has raised hopes that he could well be Orlando Pirates' saviour in Friday night's CAF Confederation Cup final against RS Berkane in Uyo, Nigeria.

Pule, who lifted the 'Players Player of the Year' trophy at Pirates' awards last season, is a big favourite with supporters because of his stellar performances in the past. After a seven-month injury-enforced lay-off, he finally enjoyed some game on Sunday night when he ran out late in the semi-final second leg clash against Al Ahli Tripoli at Orlando Stadium.

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Around the hour mark, Pule was among the substitutes warming up on the side of the field and this was the cue for the 'Ghost' [as Pirates' fans are known] to chant 'Pule, Pule, Pule...'

Twenty minutes later, the Pirates technical staff answered the call, and Pule joined the fray. He made little impact, but he wisely slowed the game down deep inside the opposition half as Pirates looked to keep their aggregate lead intact. He did a superb holding job as Al Ahli Tripoli battled to gain possession whenever he was on the ball.

He did show some fine creative touches with a few off-the-ball plays with teammates, and this kept the opposition defence guessing.

Pirates interim co-coach Ncikazi it was noticeable that Pule was lacking in match fitness. However, he said the left-winger served notice that he is ready to lead the Pirates attack again. Pirates' ability in the strike zone has been a problem all season and it was again highlighted against Al Ahli Tripoli.

Some of Pirates' goals this season have come from defenders like Bandile Shandu and Happy Jele. Together they have scored seven goals between them in the Confed Cup this season.

Ncikazi believes Pule is the player for the big occasion.

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"Pule is an important member of the team, and he's very creative," said Ncikazi. "Unfortunately, coming from an injury that kept him out for a long time, he could only play a few minutes.

"If we don’t give him an opportunity, he won’t have an opportunity to shine in the final. If he does make it to the final, he is like those types of players that win you matches.

“Now we know how far he can go, and we can now do more in terms of preparing him."

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Pule may be joined upfront by Zimbabwean Terrence Dzvukamanja, who was also a second-half substitute on Sunday. Dzvukamanja has not been prolific in his primary role as a striker, but he brings a spark to the side's attack in the striking zone. He can pull the defence out of shape with his snappy entries into the goalmouth.

Meanwhile, CAF has announced the match officials for the final and most are from Southern African countries.

The referee is world-renowned Zambian Janny Sikazwe, who officiated at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Other career highlights for him include blowing the finals of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2016 FIFA Club World Cup final.

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The assistants who will run the lines are Jerson Emiliano Dos Santos from Angola and Arsenio Chadreque Maringule of Mozambique.

The fourth official, also from the COSAFA region, is experienced Botswana official Joshua Bondo.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) will be Mahmoud Ashor from Egypt.

On Tuesday, CAF confirmed that the final will kick off at 9pm (SA time), at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo, Nigeria.

@Herman_Gibbs

IOL Sport

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