Pietermaritzburg – Orlando Pirates coach Vladamir Vermezovic praised his 'tired players' after they found the motivation and strength to reach a fourth final of the season with victory over Maritzburg United in the Nedbank Cup semi-finals on Saturday.
The Buccaneers won 2-1 at the Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg to build on their record of reaching every possible decisive game in 2013/14 – they also got to the MTN8, Telkom Knockout and CAF Champions League finals – although they remain trophyless.
“It's been an extremely taxing season and the guys are tired,” saidVermezovic, whose side will play Bidvest Wits in the season finale.
“The club has played in every single game it's been possible to play in during one single season.
“But credit to them for keeping on finding the motivation to push themselves.
There's no doubt it won't be easy for us now in the final.
“Tomorrow we fly to Johannesburg and on Monday we're on the bus to QwaQwa.
Tuesday we'll play (Free State Stars) there and then we'll come back on Wednesday. Then on Friday we're on a plane to Durban to play Golden Arrows.
“We'll start thinking about Bidvest Wits after that.”
Against the Team of Choice, it took a decisive eight-minute second-half spell to set up the win.
After a goalless opening period, an own goal from Mario Booysen put the Buccaneers in front after 52 minutes, before Mpho Makola's rifling long-range effort doubled the advantage on the hour.
The hosts pulled a goal back when substitute Terrance Mandaza scored from inside the box after 73 minutes, but Pirates held on.
He added that Maritzburg's lack of big-game experience could have cost them, saying: “I think they were more aggressive in the game we played 20 days ago.
“Maybe that was also down to the importance of the game, being a big semi-final, which could have lead to them being a bit more scared.” However, United boss Steve Komphela disagreed.
He insisted his side did not show too much respect for their high-profile opponents as the club featured in a major cup semi-final for the first time in its history.
“No, I don't think we were too cautious or showed too much respect,” he said.
“I think we played well on the whole. In the first half I don't think we completed the process. We defended nicely, our transitions were too slow and we couldn't break out decisively.
“In the second half that changed. The only mistake overall was that first half when we didn't attack as we desired.”
He was nonetheless proud of their showing, adding: “I'm very happy with the performance of my side. The performance of the players have done this club tremendously proud.” – Sapa