Orlando Pirates serve notice to rivals after top start to Nedbank Cup defence

Orlando Pirates head coach Jose Riveiro speaking during a press conference at Multichoice offices in Randburg ahead of the much anticipated Soweto derby

Orlando Pirates began their Nedbank Cup defence with a bang on Saturday afternoon, hammering amateur side Crystal Lake 6-0 at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. Seen here: Pirates coach Jose Riveiro. Picture: Itumeleng English/ Independent Newspapers.

Published Feb 26, 2024


Orlando Pirates are starting to embrace the pressure that comes with the expectations of winning week in and week out, says coach Jose Riveiro.

Pirates began their Nedbank Cup defence with a bang on Saturday afternoon, hammering amateur side Crystal Lake 6-0 at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit. And while that result guaranteed their progression to the last 16 of the country’s premier knockout competition, it also spoke volumes of their quality.

Pirates arguably have the most talented squad at their disposal behind Mamelodi Sundowns in the top flight – a characteristic that they have, however, failed to put to good use. Unlike Sundowns, who are chasing their record seventh league championship in a row this season, Pirates have only won four trophies in the last 10 seasons.

This season, they’ve blown hot and cold as they won the MTN8 only to stutter in the DStv Premiership before losing out on the the inaugural Carling Knockout. However, having taken advantage of their clash against Crystal Lake to flex their muscles in the Nedbank Cup, Riveiro lauded his team for living up to the lofty expectations.

Always expected to win

“Sometimes it’s nice to be in that scenario because we are used to being in it. In almost every single match that we play, we are expected to win,” he said.

“When you play for Pirates, there’s no game that you can’t recognise yourself as the favourites. It’s true today, the difference between the two teams is big.

“Like I said to the guys this week, the most difficult thing in sport is winning before you even play the match. So, no one expected us to get a different result here today. That’s difficult. But the most important thing is that we worked for it. We didn’t wait for it, that’s why we got an early lead. It talks very well about the group.”

Pirates are no stranger to picking up form when it matters the most. Last season, they were one of the best teams in the top flight in the second half of the season. Apart from completing a double by winning the Nedbank Cup, Pirates bagged 35 points in the league to finish second, three behind champions Sundowns.

Riveiro is hoping that his troops can repeat that feat in the next few weeks and bag another second-place finish that guarantees Caf Champions League football.

Winning is the only thing on our minds

“Winning every match (is what I want to see),” he said. “We don’t drop points. We want to at least finish second and play continental football next season.

“We’ve dropped a lot of points already in the first half of the season, so winning is the only thing that’s on our minds at the moment.”

But while Pirates are eager to return to the premier continental competition, the Nedbank Cup comes with more than the R7 million cheque.

It also guarantees the winners a place in the Caf Confederation Cup, something that Pirates might welcome if they finish outside the top three in the league.

“Hopefully we can progress well in the Nedbank. We are going with the illusion of defending the title,” said the 48-year-old coach. “We know it’s difficult to win back-to-back. But we did it in the MTN8, so we are dreaming of doing it again in the Nedbank Cup.”


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