We can’t get ahead of ourselves, says Josef Zinnbauer
JOHANNESBURG - Orlando Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer is not prematurely thinking his team has a shot at winning the CAF Confederation Cup after putting one foot in the group stage of the campaign.
After finishing third in the DStv Premiership last term, the Buccaneers qualified for the preliminary round qualifiers of the Confederation Cup. They started that campaign with a win, defeating Angolan side Sagrada Esperanca 1-0 in the first leg away.
Esperanca forfeited the second leg match in South Africa, citing the country’s Covid-19 hotspot status. Pirates were awarded a walkover, and were drawn against Jwaneng Galaxy of Botswana in the next round of the qualifiers.
The Sea Robbers steered their ship to a steady position in the first leg against the Botswanan champions, defeating them 3-0 away last Sunday with goals from Thulani Hlatshwayo, Linda Mntambo and Jean-Marc Makusu.
The second leg, which will see the overall winners qualify for the group stage of the pan-African competition, will be staged at the Orlando Stadium on Sunday (5pm kick-off). Bucs, though, are not carried away by their hefty lead and already thinking about the championship.
“It’s too far for us (to think about the title). We had a good result but we still have a game on Sunday. So if we win that we still have the group stage campaign. And then we’ll have to see how we’ll go from that. We’ll have to look at it game by game,” Zinnbauer said.
“If it was possible, I think all the players and coaches in the world would say ‘yes, we can win the next trophy’. But the focus is always on the next game. Considering that there’s an away and home game, that means there’s two chances which is good.”
Zinnbauer may be new to continental football with Pirates, but captain Happy Jele has qualified for at least three knockout stages with the team in his 15 years with the club. Jele and Co’s highest finish in the continent recently was reaching the Confederation Cup final in 2015.
Having lost that final to Etoile du Sahel, Jele will be hoping for redemption. But he too has taken the leaf out of Zinnbauer’s book, saying they’ll still take the game to Galaxy, despite the advantage from the first leg.
“We want to win the game, that’s the most important thing. It doesn’t matter the scoreline that we have. We want to win the game and go to the next round. That will bring us confidence because we haven’t been consistent this season,” Jele said.
In their domestic league campaign Pirates have blown hot and cold. In nine league matches this year, they won three, drew three and lost three.
That run has placed them fifth on the standings with 28 points, eight behind leaders Mamelodi Sundowns who have a game in hand.
Zinnbauer, asked whether he’ll rest some key players against Galaxy to accommodate their next league match against second-placed SuperSport United on Wednesday, said: “We can’t be too casual. We need to win this game and make the group stage. Then after, we can talk about SuperSport.”