Orlando Pirates have been drawn against the University of Pretoria in the first round of this year’s Telkom Knockout which kicks off next week Wednesday. The Buccaneers have not had the ideal start to their 2015/16 campaign, having been dumped out of the first cup competition of the season, the MTN8 in the first round by eventual champions Ajax Cape Town. They have also been somewhat stuttering in the league with only one win in four games, two losses, and a draw.
This is hardly what the Sea Robbers had in mind about three months ago, and this has of course left coach Eric Tinkler with heaps of pressure to get things right. Left fullback Patrick Phungwayo knows things have to change sooner rather than later: ‘We’ve let the brand down because this is a big team. We need to stand out and haven’t done that lately. For him (Tinkler) it’s been pressure because supporters always think it’s the coach but as players we’re also responsible and need to change that because I think Tinkler is a good coach for Orlando Pirates.’
Phungwayo says the team has to start winning games in domestic football in order to appease their not-so-forgiving fans: ‘It’s time to redeem ourselves. The media has portrayed that we only do well in the continent, so it’s time we give local attention and give the fans what they deserve.’ The Bafana Bafana defender is of course referring to the team’s success in the CAF Confederation Cup that has seen then reach the semi-finals, the first leg of which will be played at the Orlando Stadium against old foes Al Ahly this weekend.
This will be some sort of a grudge match with the Egyptians having beaten their South African counterparts to the Champions League trophy in the final two years ago. Phungwayo says: ‘We’ve been here before and they know what we’re capable of. Al Ahly won’t come here thinking it’s going to be easy. It’s not about revenge. It’s about getting to the final.’
As a ripple effect to that fantastic run on the continent in 2013, the Ghost’s league campaign never quite recovered from the demands of the heavy schedule it came with, and although they got to every cup final that season under Roger De Sa, they only won one of them. Tinkler will do well to avoid such a scenario again, and is almost forced to rotate his squad. Meanwhile Pirates travel up north on Tuesday to take on Polokwane City in the league, a team they’re equal on points with and Phungwayo says this will be used as a spring board for the weekend’s game.
He says winning against Kosta Papic’s players is their only option and has urged the fans to show up in numbers and show support in order to spur the team on and hopefully improve their lowly ninth position on the log.