Pirates could spook Sundowns in final

Jose Riveiro has already engineered a cup victory over Mamelodi Sundowns this season when Orlando Pirates beat the Brazilians in the MTN8. | BackpagePix

Jose Riveiro has already engineered a cup victory over Mamelodi Sundowns this season when Orlando Pirates beat the Brazilians in the MTN8. | BackpagePix

Published May 28, 2024


Smiso Msomi

‘The Ghost’ of Orlando Pirates are expected to resurface for yet another big game as the club prepares to take on a somewhat wounded Mamelodi Sundowns in the final of the Nedbank Cup.

The two titans will clash in a cup final for the second time this season after their meeting in the MTN8 earlier in the campaign, a day every Pirates supporter will remember fondly.

This week will see various discussions around the mental and psychological demands surrounding a cup final, let alone one that features two of the country’s biggest clubs and the most successful in recent seasons.

Orlando Pirates will look to defend their Nedbank Cup title when they face Mamelodi Sundowns later this week. | BackpagePix

Sundowns have won their seventh DStv Premiership title and much to head coach Rulani Mokwena’s unhappiness, his team cut a figure of disappointment after failing to seal a first “Invincibles” season over the weekend.

Former Buccaneer Eric Tinkler guided Cape Town City to a famous win over Sundowns at Loftus Versveld and poured cold water over what was expected to be a celebratory conclusion to a season Sundowns had gone unbeaten in, in the league at least, until then.

While the experience in the Sundowns camp is expected to come to the fore once more, the chink of doubt at the corner of their thoughts may play into the hands of a Pirates side that preys on the slightest signs of weakness in cup competitions.

The Sea Robbers have lost one, won one (on penalties) and drawn one game against Sundowns this season, an improvement on a run of poor results against Sundowns in recent years.


Pirates head coach Jose Riveiro has yet to suffer defeat against Mokwena in cup competitions since his arrival at the start of last season. The Spanish-born tactician guided Pirates past Sundowns in the semi-final of the MTN8 last year, walking away comfortable 3-0 winners across two legs.

This season, Pirates shocked the country again as they defeated Sundowns via a penalty shoot-out at the Moses Mabhida Stadium to retain their MTN8 title, handing Riveiro his third major cup in his first two years at the Soweto-based club.

It may not surprise many if Sundowns’ quality and overall superiority becomes the difference between the two teams on Saturday at a sold-out Mbombela Stadium but Mokwena would need to win the mind games before the actual kick-off.

It seems as though the 37-year-old coach may have already begun the mind games ahead of their clash.

“I like Jose so much. I really do,” Mowkena said in his post-match media conference.

“Every time I meet him I get a genuine sense of respect, like a genuine sense of sportsmanship. He’s a fierce competitor but he’s a good person, you know.”

The two coaches will also go head to head in the DStv Premiership coach of the year category at the PSL awards at the end of the season. Both Pirates and Sundowns have navigated somewhat tricky journeys to end up as the final two standing, with clubs from different tiers being placed in their way.

Riveiro guided Pirates past ABC Motsepe League outfit Crystal Lake and Motsepe Foundation Championship side Hungry Lions before fighting their way past AmaZulu and Chippa United in the quarter-finals and semifinals and they stand as the highest-scoring team in the competition.

The Brazilians met their biggest test in the semi-finals against Stellenbosch after breezing past second-tier sides La Masia and The University of Pretoria.

Riveiro will hope he can keep etching his name in the history books of the Sea Robbers by claiming his fourth cup medal while Mokwena will have his sights set on the domestic double.