Represent! Orlando Pirates join, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns to make history in Africa
History made! South Africa’s designated “big three” – Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns - will all represent the country in the quarterfinals of the respective Caf Competitions for the first time in the same season.
Pirates were the last team to reach this feat. Despite losing 1-0 to Enyimba in their last Confederation Cup group stage match on Thursday morning away in Nigeria, they finished second in Group A on a head-to-head ruling after being tied on nine points with the hosts.
Heading to this encounter, the Bucs only needed a draw to finish top of the group and subsequently qualify for the quarterfinals. But a last-minute gasp goal from Cyril Olisema ensured that Enyimba claimed all three points to finish top of Group A ahead of the last-eight draw.
Pirates came into this encounter having taken a gamble as they didn’t have a reserve goalkeeper, relying solely on Wayne Sandilands. This follows after Caf registered goalies Siyabonga Mpontshane and Richard Ofori sustained respective injuries.
In the quarterfinals of the Confederation Cup, the Bucs will be at home in the first leg, where they'll be drawn against group stage top finishers Jeunesse Sportive de Kabylie, Raja Athletic Club or Association Sportive et Culturelle Diaraf.
The quarterfinals' draw of the inter-clubs competitions will take place tomorrow afternoon at the Caf headquarters in Cairo. But delight for South African football as they’ll have three representatives, after Chiefs and Sundowns qualified for the last-eight of the Champions League.
Chiefs booked their spot in the group stage of the competition for the first time this season in their 51 years of existence. But they ensured that they pulled the weight around in Group C after finishing second, dragging themselves to the quarterfinals of the competition.
Amakhosi weren't always pleasant on the eye, given that they won two matches, drawn three and lost one. But they got the business done with some collective and individual performances, especially after coming-back-from-behind twice against Horoya AC.
They subsequently drew that match to finish second in the group on a head-to-head ruling, possibly setting themselves up against Simba SC, Esperance or local arch-rivals Sundowns, who finished at the summit of the Group B, in the knockout stage.
Sundowns, the 2016 African Kings, will be playing in their record fifth knockout stage of the competition in the last six seasons. Their group stage campaign was not perfect after dropping five points in the last two matches, drawing with Al Hilal and losing to CR Belouizdad.
Nonetheless, they’ll be optimistic that they can reach their second semi-finals in the last three seasons, with their potential opponents either MC Alger of Algeria, defending champions and Egyptian giants Al Ahly or local nemesis, the Glamour Boys in the last-eight.
While Sundowns will fancy their chances of meeting Chiefs, hoping to avenge their recent 2-1 defeat in the league, they wouldn't mind meeting Al Ahly who are coached by former mentor Pitso Mosimane - the man who's responsible for their illustrious success in the last eight years.