DURBAN - If it's true that teams play better when they’re having fun then Orlando Pirates should dish out a top performance in the Nedbank Cup final against SuperSport United at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday night.
In a season where Pirates twice conceded six goals in league defeats and finished outside of the top eight for the first time in the PSL era, one might struggle to find anything to cheer about.
However, Bucs coach Kjell Jonevret was like a kid at a fair on Thursday.
The Swede was dazzled by the cup atmosphere and could hardly wait for Saturday's 8.15pm kick-off as he joked with the media and teased SuperSport assistant coach Kaitano Tembo.
Jonevret wasn’t with Pirates during the disastrous first half of the campaign and start of the second half when they were whipped 6-0 by Mamelodi Sundowns and 6-1 by SuperSport.
He was made well aware of those statistics after his appointment and is under no illusions about how vital it is for a club of Pirates’ stature to win silverware.
Instead of the constant reminder of the need to win trophies leading to a pressured environment, Jonevret fed off the positive energy and said he looked forward to a fun outing to win the trophy and give the Ghost something to celebrate for their 80th anniversary.
“This is for the guys at the petrol stations and the restaurants. It is for them, who are working so hard, and that’s what is really important," he said.
“This is our last chance to win something, but we don’t see it as pressure when everyone says we must win the cup. We get more and more energy from it. A lot of things happened at the club, up and down, mostly down, and now we have a fantastic opportunity to do something and have some fun.”
The timing of the cup, one month after the league ended, is unusual.
Nothing could be done about it, Jonevret conceded, but again he put a positive spin on the circumstances which sees them go into a match potentially less sharp than SuperSport, who have been active in the CAF Confederation Cup.
“They have played a lot in CAF and we just trained, so I was a little worried if we could keep the pace up for four weeks without games, but we have no problems. Everyone is fresh and we rested the injuries, so it’ll be okay,” Jonevret said.
Having nothing else besides the cup to focus on could even work in their favour, the coach added.
“For four weeks everyone worked hard, and I can see they believe in themselves more and they want to win on Saturday. It wasn’t like that when I came.
“The attitude has changed and that gives hope. With the league it can be tough to focus. The cup final is at the end of the season and I’m 100% sure everyone is totally focused.”
Defending champions SuperSport have as much motivation as Pirates to win silverware.
Besides wanting to make history and defend the title for the first time under the Nedbank sponsorship, it would serve as a fitting farewell to departing coach Stuart Baxter.
Tembo downplayed it by saying that “the club is more important than the individual and it’s important to stay focused”, especially given that this is their second final of the season, having earlier finished runners-up in the Telkom Knockout.
Jonevret, very much in fun mode, quipped that SuperSport would do better to “give Baxter a bunch of flowers” because Pirates will take the silverware.