Orlando Pirates wary of Hungry Lions’ speed, quality ahead of Nedbank Cup clash

Orlando Pirates head coach Jose Riveiro

FILE - Orlando Pirates head coach Jose Riveiro. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Published Mar 15, 2024


Jose Riveiro says his Orlando Pirates troops can’t afford to underestimate their Nedbank Cup last-16 opponents Hungry Lions at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night (6pm kick-off).

Pirates have battled in their bid to challenge for all the trophies this season. They’ve only won the MTN8 so far, while missing out on the Carling Knockout Cup.

The DStv Premiership title is also out of reach as they trail runaway champions Mamelodi Sundowns, who have two games in hand, by 13 points.

But Pirates can still salvage their league season by finishing in second position and qualifying for the CAF Champions League next season.

And that’s not all. They can still complete a cup double by adding the Nedbank Cup to their MTN8 crown – a feat that would copy last season’s heroics.

However, Pirates have the small matter of getting past NFD side Hungry Lions in their next round of the Ke Yona Cup in Orlando tomorrow.

Pirates will wear the favourites’ tag, given their pedigree. They beat minnows FC All Stars, Venda Football Academy and Dondol Stars en route to the crown last season.

And having shown no mercy for fourth division side Crystal Lake in the last-32, Riveiro has asked for another dominant performance from his charges tomorrow.

“We know that it’s going to be difficult because it’s a cup game, and it’s a different game,” the Pirates coach said in the pre-match press conference this week.

“In 90 minutes, and in the right frame of mind, I am sure that they are going to be a competitive side. So, we need to prepare for every scenario.

“Like I said before, against Crystal Lake, it’s not about the name of the team or the place, but who wants to be in the next round.

“So, we need to show that we want to be in the next round during the 90 or 120 minutes that will be possible to play as well.”

Having struggled to prepare for Crystal Lake due to their minnows’ tag and only finding out who their opponents would be six days before, Pirates have prepared well for Lions this time around.

Pirates have known that they’ll face the Lions for some time now, and have been able to watch some of their games, either on television or live.

And from his analysis, Riveiro has noticed that the Lions are not in the second round of the competition by fluke, as they are doing well in their league as well.

Lions are sixth on the log in the NFD and six points behind Orbit College, who are holding the promotion play-offs spots. Riveiro has warned that they are full of quality.

“They are a typical South African team from the second tier. They have a good combination of experienced players and talented players,” Riveiro said.

“They are well organised, with a clear structure and orientation. They are solid in structure when defending, and have capacity to create problems in transitions.

“They have speed and quality. On that day, every player will be running an extra mile to prove and show that they are ready to deal with a team like us.”

Riveiro has been brave enough to throw youngsters into the deep end, with the likes of Relebohile Mofokeng (19), Thalente Mbatha (24) and Karim Kimvuidi (22) all playing their part.

That act of bravery has caught the eye of Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos, who lauded the good work the Spaniard is doing at Pirates.

But Riveiro has reiterated that as long as a player shows he’s fit and ready to play, he’ll pick him – to ensure that he always selects the best players for the day.

“It’s not about age or young players, but about talent... players with the talent to play for Pirates, which is not an easy thing,” Riveiro said.

“So, we’ll continue the same way we’ve been doing with the players that are coming from development or different clubs.”

IOL Sport