Usuthu confident of sinking Pirates ship

Pablo Franco Martin of AmaZulu. | BackpagePix

Pablo Franco Martin of AmaZulu. | BackpagePix

Published Mar 20, 2024


Smiso Msomi

AmaZulu head coach Pablo Franco Martin has talked up his team’s chances of advancing to the semi-finals of the Nedbank Cup after drawing Orlando Pirates in the last eight.

Usuthu will welcome the Buccaneers to Durban in the Nedbank Cup in a repeat of the 2022 MTN8 final, which saw Jose Riveiro win his first trophy as the head coach of Pirates. Martin has already had a taste of facing Pirates this season as the two sides could not be separated in a goalless encounter in the league.

Pablo Franco Martin of AmaZulu. | BackpagePix

The KwaZulu-Natal-based outfit has experienced various inconsistent and severely unbalanced periods over recent seasons but continues its fight to become one of the country’s premium clubs. Under the tutelage of the Spanish-born mentor, the club displayed glimpses of its potential this season and is targeting another dream cup run.

Speaking to the media after the Nedbank Cup draw, Martin praised the work of his countryman Riveiro at Pirates. “Cijimpi”, as he is affectionately known in KZN, then expressed his confidence in his team’s chances of defying the odds against a much-fancied Buccaneers side.

“I’m not going to say I'm happy because we will face one of the best teams in the country and the defending champions,” he first admitted. “You know they have been doing an amazing job for one year-and-a-half, too.

“We already showed in the previous competition with this format in the Carling (Knockout) Cup that we could beat any team. We reached the semi-finals; we were about to reach the final from there,” he added.

“Now we are going to try to qualify and we are going to play our best football.

“It is going to be very challenging. It’s going to be motivating for all of us but these are the kinds of games that we all love to play as professional footballers or technical members, or as a club. These are the kind of games that can give us the possibility to be bigger and to write big pages of history, and we are here for that.”

Usuthu now play every competition with the pressure of trying to end a trophy drought that has stretched nearly 33 years. Their best run in the Ke Yona competition came in the 2009/10 season, when they lost to Bidvest Wits in the final.

Martin expressed his delight at reaching one milestone with Usuthu and was sure his men would be up to the challenge of facing the nine-time winners of the competition (in its various guises).

“The best thing is that we are playing the Nedbank Cup quarter-finals for the first time in 12 years,” said Martin.

“AmaZulu were not in the quarter-finals of this competition, so it’s a small piece of history, and now we are looking forward to the game because I’m sure we will have our chances.”