Pirates face an uphill battle in Guinea
The Buccaneers have been underwhelming in the group stage, committing silly blunders to find themselves backed into a corner.
Pirates now have to beat Horoya in Conakry, Guinea, today (3pm SA time kick-off) to progress to the knockout stage.
They are in this tricky situation because of their failure to make the most of their home advantage, drawing with reigning African champions Esperance and minnows FC Platinum at Orlando Stadium.
The 1995 African champions have it in them to rescue this situation.
Pirates don’t have to look further than Sandilands for inspiration. The former Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper, who won the 2016 Champions League with the Brazilians, came to the club highly rated and looked like he would easily make the No 1 jersey his.
But a couple of blunders derailed those ambitions. Sandilands was relegated to the stands and the MultiChoice Diski Challenge before fighting his way back to claiming the No 1 jersey.
Pirates were also tipped to easily qualify for the knockout stage along with Esperance but now find themselves in this position.
“That’s not in my hands, whether I am dropped or not,” Sandilands said.
“Was it right or wrong? That’s not for me to say, that’s not within my powers.
“It’s been hard and tough, but with my faith I believe that everything happens for a reason. I know that the Lord has a plan and had a plan for me.
“I am a lot stronger as a person and as a footballer because of that.
“What I’ve had to go through has shaped and moulded me to be who I am today. I can now help the team and face whatever challenges that lie ahead. I am looking forward to what lies ahead.”
The Sea Robbers have a tough assignment ahead of them in Guinea. They have to beat a team who haven’t lost at home in 20 matches of CAF football.
Horoya are a tough nut to crack. They’re a stubborn and resilient bunch that’s not highly technical but they fight like they are possessed.
“We know that it’s going to be a very difficult game,” Sandilands said.
“We know that we’re going to have to be at our best in every aspect of our game. It’s not impossible!
“We know that we’ve got to be able to handle the pressure, we’ve got to be able to handle everything that they throw at us.
“We’re trying to just focus on the process and not too far ahead. We believe that if we follow our process, at the end of 90 minutes we’ll get the result we need to progress.”
The Buccaneers not only have to attack Horoya from the onset, they also have to defend well. The club’s defence has been their Achilles heel.
Any slip-up will be disastrous against a team who have one foot in the last eight.
Sandilands is tailor-made for these occasions.
The 35-year-old was thrown in at the deep end by Sundowns in the final of the 2016 Champions League final after Denis Onyango was injured in the second leg in Alexandria against Zamalek.
He put on a stellar performance, taking the Brazilians over the finish line. His experience will be valuable against Horoya.
“West African footballers are very strong,” Sandilands said.
“They are relentless. They play with passion and desire. They are hungry and are strong.
“We know that it’s going to be tough. They are going to fight. West African teams are all about the fight, the same with north African teams, who have a killer mentality.
“We know that it’s going to be a physical battle, in difficult conditions.
“We’ve got to try and be on our A-game, match their intensity and at the end of the day, as hungry as they are, we’ve got to want it more.
“We’re going to need to want it more on the day, we’ve got to be willing to die on the field.
“We don’t want to talk too much as a team, we’ll let our football do the talking.”