Pirates are battle-ready for Namibia

Team prepared to fight to avoid elimination from Caf

Orlando Pirates' centre-back and captain Happy Jele (L) makes a match-saving tackle to block Nekundi Panduleni of African Stars during the Caf Champions League match at Orlando Stadium in Orlando, Soweto, on December 15 2018.
Orlando Pirates' centre-back and captain Happy Jele (L) makes a match-saving tackle to block Nekundi Panduleni of African Stars during the Caf Champions League match at Orlando Stadium in Orlando, Soweto, on December 15 2018.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Orlando Pirates captain Happy Jele is quietly optimistic about their chances of progressing to the Caf Champions League group stages when they take on Namibian side African Stars at the Sam Nujoma Stadium on Saturday.

The Buccaneers head to Windhoek on Friday in danger of being eliminated from the tournament after they were held to a goalless draw in Johannesburg last weekend when they missed a plethora of scoring chances.

“We know it won’t be a walk in the park, but we are prepared to fight and do whatever it takes to come out tops there‚” Jele said, adding that they have been preparing on an artificial pitch in Soweto to get used to conditions they are going to face in Namibia.

“We have been training at the Nike Centre in Soweto this week in order to acclimatise to the conditions because we know the match will be played on astro turf and in extremely hot conditions.”

Jele‚ who captained Pirates in their 2013 Champions League and 2015 Confederation Cup finals defeats‚ said they must be at their best in all departments as Stars proved to be a good defensive outfit.

“Ideally we would have preferred to win the match at home convincingly, but we played against a good defensive side. They were compact and well organised at the back.”

● Kaizer Chiefs travel to Madagascar for Saturday’s Caf Confederation Cup second-round‚ second-leg tie against ASSM Elgeco Plus in a buoyant mood after back-to-back wins.

Amakhosi will take comfort in the knowledge that they registered a clean sheet in the firstleg meeting against the unheralded Madagascans.

Two late goals from Leonardo Castro saw Chiefs claim a 3-0 first in Durban, which history suggests will be enough to advance to the playoff round.

South African clubs have played six previous Caf club competition ties in Madagascar and lost only once, when Bidvest Wits were beaten 2-0 by AS Adema in 2011.

And in 2017, SuperSport United showed Chiefs the way when they defeated Elgeco Plus in the Confederation Cup‚ drawing 0-0 on the Indian Ocean island and claiming a 2-1 home victory.

Only twice before in 25 years has a South African side given up a 3-0 first-leg advantage.

The first time was when Ajax Cape Town beat Mount Cameroon 5-1 at home and then lost 5-0 away in 2005. Wits then lost to Swaziland side Royal Leopards in 2015 when both legs finished 3-0 to the home sides‚ the latter advancing on penalties.

“We are looking forward to the trip to Madagascar‚” new Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp said. “We anticipate a tough game‚ but will do our utmost to proceed to the playoffs. It is one game at the time.”

Middendorp will be without talisman forward Khama Billiat, who is recovering from injury‚ but will likely start Castro again to give the Colombian forward the opportunity to win over jeering fans who voiced their displeasure at him in the first leg.

The German coach was delighted with the goals of the forward and called on supporters to get behind the player.

“Castro is a goal scorer and not an entertainer. Thankfully he delivered two goals to give us a good aggregate score going away to play in Madagascar. The supporters need to understand the roles of each player.”

George Maluleka is expected to miss the fixture with a hamstring strain‚ while Philani Zulu had surgery on a fractured cheek bone and is also out.

Erick Mathoho and Ramahlwe Mphahlele remain sidelined through injury‚ but Middendorp will be able to call on forward Ryan Moon after he returned to training this week. Mario Booysen appears to have recovered from the knock he took in the first leg against the Malagasy side.

 

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