Orlando Pirates players react after losing against Bidvest Wits during the Nedbank Cup at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – Orlando Pirates’ Nedbank Cup loss to Bidvest Wits will test the club’s mental resolve under coach Josef Zinnbauer, who has masterminded a dramatic turnaround at the club.

The Sea Robbers are unbeaten in the Absa Premiership under the German coach, who has brought renewed energy, a strong fighting spirit and belief to the club.

But even though they have been doing well under him, there were small cracks, especially in their fragile defence.

Those cracks were covered by the heart the team play with, as well as their free-scoring nature that has seen Gabadinho Mhango lead the top goalscorer’s charts.

The instant success that Zinnabuer came with at the club also peppered on the opportunity to introspect, to look at how the club found themselves struggling in a season that was meant to be the one of delivery.

But right now Pirates have been knocked out of every knockout competition.

“When you concede two goals, and then you come back and go in front, normally you win this kind of game,” Zinnbauer said. “But as I have been saying this for weeks, we need time. We have to learn, and we learned a lot of things in this game.

“When you are a little bit clever, you can win this game.”

The lessons that Pirates have to learn is how to manage high-intensity matches.

They struggled to do that against Wits when the game was wrapped up at 3-2. Their defence was caught off guard and duly punished by Gift Motupa.

The biggest criticism for the club was how they didn’t strengthen their central defence during the transfer window when they are thin in this department in terms of quality and quantity.

The positive in the loss to Wits was how the club didn’t give up, but showed a strong resolve to come back from the dead and push the Clever Boys to extra-time.

“I am very proud of the team,” Zinnbauer said. “When you have a chance to win against Wits, then you need all aspects in the game to be good.

“It’s not enough that you make a goal and you score three goals; you saw we lost despite doing that.

“We have young players on the pitch, they need experience. We just needed to hold on for a minute and we would have won the game, and then we would have been very happy.

“I am happy too, but it’s not for the results but the performance that we had. In the start of the second half, I have been very happy.”

Orlando Pirates’ Nedbank Cup loss to Bidvest Wits will test the club’s mental resolve under coach Josef Zinnbauer. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

The Soweto giants don’t have much time to lick their wounds of being knocked out in the opening round of the Cup.

They still have a lot to play for in the league, whether it’s fighting for the championship or finishing in a position to play CAF football.

That’s why it’s important for the club to bounce back stronger when they take on Black Leopards in Thohoyandou on Sunday in the league.

To do that they have to show the same mental strength they showed when they were 2-0 down against Wits.

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But they also need to tighten things up at the back, despite Zinnabauer disagreeing to the assessment that they have defensive problems.

“The one goal was a penalty and the other one was a counter-attack after the corner,” Zinnbauer said.

“It’s possible (to concede like that) and it was a cup game. A cup game is more open, you don’t have a chance to make up for it late. You are out now in a cup game.”

Bonginkosi Ndadane