Orlando Pirates suddenly ‘Crystal’ clear about Nedbank Cup mission

Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro at a press conference.

Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro. Picture: Timothy Bernard / Indepent Media

Published Feb 21, 2024


Orlando Pirates’ wait finally came to an end on Monday evening when the PSL named their Nedbank Cup round-of-32 opponents.

Although the Nedbank Cup draw was conducted three weeks ago, there was a dispute in the Safa Mpumalanga region. As a result, it was not known who would represent the Mpumalanga region in the Nedbank Cup competition.

However, Safa arbitration finally resolved the matter, and HollywoodBets Regional League club Crystal Lake will play Pirates, the defending champions.

The PSL announced: “The Nedbank Cup last-32 fixtures line-up is now complete, with the confirmation of Crystal Lake FC as the Safa Division club that will represent the Mpumalanga province.

“Crystal Lake FC will host the defending champions, Orlando Pirates, in a round-of-32 encounter at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday.”

A few years ago, Pirates suffered disaster against a lower-tier opponent in this competition and coach Jose Riveiro was mindful of this when he was informed of the Crystal Lake clash on Saturday.

“We are defending the title,” said Rivero. “It is a competition that I really like. We will prepare ourselves as usual and we are going to take the game very seriously because we had an experience last season playing against (lower- league) opponents like Dondol Stars, All Stars and Venda Football Club. It was not an easy part for us.

“We know clearly what the objective is for us and we are going to fight the same way we did against Mamelodi Sundowns (in a 1-1 league draw last Saturday).”

In what was regarded as one of the greatest shocks in South African football history, the now-defunct amateur team Maluti FET College, with coach Morena Ramoreboli at the helm, famously defeated Pirates 4-1 in an opening round Nedbank Cup fixture in 2013.

Crystal Lake will host Pirates at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday and their chairman, Magic Nyalungu, has been a confirmed Kaizer Chiefs fan since his boyhood days. Nothing will please him more than to see Crystal Lake dump Pirates out of the competition.

Last season, Pirates came back from a goal down to be crowned the Nedbank Cup winners after beating Sekhukhune United in the final in Pretoria. If they defend their title, they will secure a place in the CAF Confederation Cup.

“We want to go back to continental football without any discussion,” said Riveiro.

“We have the extra motivation to have one more cup to play. We are defending the title.”

One player that is certain to be in Riveiro’s starting line-up is striker Evidence Makgopa, who was impressive for Bafana Bafana at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Riveiro is hoping he will continue with his form for Pirates.

“I’m not saying this because I noticed any difference already,” said Riveiro.

“But I’m sure that he’s not the same player any more. He was in a top continental tournament competing with many players who are already having a career in Europe in top sides.

“(He spent) seven weeks camping with his mates, with other exceptional players around him, so all those experiences are going to play a big role in Evidence’s career.

“I’m really glad that he finally got the opportunity that probably we were all looking for and expecting from him since the moment that he signed for Pirates.”