JOHANNESBURG - Orlando Pirates coach Kjell Jonevret didn’t give a “big speech” on Tuesday about how the Buccaneers would execute their vengeance plan on Free State Stars this weekend in the Nedbank Cup last 16 and go on to defy the odds by keeping their record of being one of only two clubs to finish in the league’s top eight in the PSL era.
The Swede was rather honest about the challenges ahead, emphasising that while it might not necessarily be his biggest personal test, it was certainly the case for the club.
The Buccaneers face plucky Stars for the second time in a week on Saturday, having been beaten 3-2 in Orkney four days ago in a league clash.
“Maybe the team are where they are because of the standard of players in the team,” said Jonevret, who faces a mammoth task of having to guide Pirates away from 11th place on the table to a slightly more respectable finish with only nine matches remaining.
“There are a lot of good players here, about 30 of them. But maybe not all of them are quality players. I have noticed that the squad has changed a lot from last season, I don’t know why, but maybe that is part of the reason we are struggling. Everyone maybe arrived and they have been battling to find the right patterns and getting used to being here.”
The current poor form has little to do with Jonevret, who arrived on 20 February, replacing Augusto Palacios - a caretaker coach from November after Muhsin Ertugral quit following a 6-1 drubbing in a league match against SuperSport United.
Jonevret has been in charge of five matches in all competitions and his only win was against a lower-division side, EC Bees, in the previous round of the Cup. He was incredibly calm on Tuesday considering concerns that, with no wins in 12 league matches, the Buccaneers could be dragged into the relegation scrap.
“Of course you always feel some pressure when you are working for a big club,” he said.
“But I feel like when you come in and things are like this, it is an opportunity to try and do something. It is a tough situation.
“I don’t want a headline saying this is my toughest challenge, but it is probably tough for the club because they are not used to this. Whether it is my toughest, I don’t know. I don’t think so.
“This is football and it is fun. I don’t feel like I wake up in the morning and don’t want to go to work for instance. It is fun to wake up and work with young and motivated people.”
Jonevret still maintains that Pirates are conceding “stupid” goals and the manner in which they were carved open by Stars at the weekend is evidence enough. Naturally, the coach would want to continue working on getting more clean sheets, but argued the rest of the team also have to step up.
“I won’t sit here and talk bad about my players, but what I will say is that all departments have to improve - the defence, midfield and even attackers," Jonevret said.
“Maybe we get to see that on Saturday. We were making progress and then it felt like we were going a little bit backwards.”