Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro has dismissed suggestions his side is under pressure, as they begin their MTN8 title defence against Sekhukhune United at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro says they have accepted the pressure and responsibility that comes with defending the MTN8 trophy this season.
Pirates had a season to remember under Riveiro in his first campaign in charge, as he guided them to two trophies – the MTN8 and Nedbank Cup – while earning them a runners-up spot in the Premiership.
And while those achievements endeared him to The Ghost, Riveiro’s second season in charge of the Buccaneers is expected to be challenging.
Not only are Pirates set to push Mamelodi Sundowns for the league title, but fans will be hoping to see their club challenging for honours in all five five competitions the club are involved in this season, including the new Carling Cup, as well as the Caf Champions League.
Pirates, though, have already had a mixed start in the league, losing their opening game 1-0 to Stellenbosch FC last weekend, before redeeming themselves with a topsy-turvy performance in beating Royal AM 4-2 on Tuesday.
While they rushed into a 3-0 lead, Pirates were guilty of complacency, and gave the KwaZulu-Natal team a sniff of the points before scoring a fourth goal late in the game.
Pirates will next turn their attention to their MTN8 title defence on Saturday when they face Sekhukhune United in the quarter-finals at Orlando Stadium (6pm kickoff).
“Pressure, pressure, pressure – everywhere. No responsibility, opportunity and excitement? Maybe those are the words to define our mindset now,” Riveiro said.
“We are thinking about the responsibility and privilege to defend the title. I would really like to have this pressure and privilege that every time we start the tournament … we are the champions.
“We are really motivated and we were there last season, and we know how to play this final. We need to make the first step, which is to go through to the next game, respecting our opponent.”
Riveiro is right. While they will wear the favourites cap in Orlando, he knows that they’ll undermine Sekhukhune at their peril.
Sekhukhune played Pirates three times last season and bagged four points against them in the league, before losing in the Nedbank Cup final in Tshwane.
“They deserve that respect. They are a good and organised team. We know that it’s going to be difficult for us, but (it) will also be difficult for them,” Riveiro said.
The clash will be challenging for both teams, but Pirates and Riveiro have grown in leaps and bounds, and matured since he was hired.
That’s why they are expected to show signs of improvement individually and as a collective, even though Riveiro said things will not be easy for them.
“I don’t want to say it’s going to be easy or difficult. But it’s going to be difficult for all of us in the top eight,” he said.
“But obviously I am not the same coach that I was a year ago – probably we grow with experiences, and in this case, professional experience and personal.
“I know things that I didn’t know one year ago – so it’s a draining and learning process. Obviously we want to use that experience in our favour, but that doesn’t mean it will be less easy.”
Pirates’ win over Royal AM had lessons, both positive and negative. But one of the positives was seeing striker Zakhele Lepasa rediscovering his goalscoring form.
Lepasa was sent on loan for the second half of the season to SuperSport United after he struggled for game time, but he seems to be taking his second chance with both hands this season.
“In every team and squad, especially when the size is big, it’s important that everybody understands their roles in every moment of the season,” Riveiro said.
“Our players had exceptional behaviours last season (winning two trophies and finishing second in the league), and this season is not going to be different.”