By Daniel Eslick
The Buccaneers are back. Despite losing the MTN 8 final to Platinum Stars on Saturday night, Roger de Sa has transformed the team which disappointed all last season, juggling injury problems, a heavy fixture list and a reactionary set of fans. If this is to be Pirates road to redemption, the club is on track.
Following Pirates loss to Platinum Stars in the final, renewed calls for De Sa’s head have begun to emerge, calls which originated from the very beginning of his tenure at Orlando Pirates. Despite De Sa’s ten years of coaching in South Africa, Pirates’ fans are still not convinced.
De Sa’s reign as Pirates coach has not been easy. Expectations soared around the club after the Buccaneers achieved the unthinkable – two consecutive treble winning seasons.
|DE SA TURNS THE CORNER
|2012/13 Telkom Knockout: Quarter-finalists
2012/13 Nebank Cup: Last 32
2012/13 League position: 3
2013 Caf Champions League: In the semi-final
2012/13 MTN 8: Losing finalists
De Sa inherited a team on the decline, their star striker Benni McCarthy on the verge of retirement and complacency creeping into the ranks of a squad which had dominated the football landscape of South Africa.
Placing emphasis on winning Pirates second Caf Champions League star and rebuilding the side, De Sa had to contend with an array of injuries to key players last season, long travels to all corners of Africa and a general sense of pessimism directed towards him and his coaching ability.
Disappointment reigned in the Orlando Stadium. Pirates lost their PSL crown to bitter rivals Kaizer Chiefs and suffered embarrassing defeats along the way, a 4-1 loss to Maluti FET College in the Nedbank Cup a damning example of the issues facing the club.
However, the Caf Champions League remained a burning bright light for De Sa, as his side began a journey which has seen them defy the odds, display brilliance at times and achieve a spot in the semi-final stage of the tournament. Defeating Al Ahly and Zamalek changed opinions, and Pirates were beginning to peak under De Sa’s iron grip.
A berth in the MTN 8 final gave De Sa a chance to win his first piece of silverware for the club. Defeating Kaizer Chiefs on the road to the final meant the Buccaneers were expected to triumph on Saturday night, but the team were pipped at the post by Platinum Stars - a cruel fate for a side which has played more football than any other team this season.
||DE SA BELIEVES PIRATES DESERVED TO WIN THE MTN 8
Pirates dominated the majority of the match, but profligacy from the favourites meant Dikwena could hang on for penalties, a shootout which De Sa described as a “raffle” after the game. The side faltered under the pressure and Dikwena’s seized the opportunity to seal a historic win, a victory which has fuelled more distaste towards De Sa.
A long season is in its infancy for Pirates, and with Irvin Khoza maintaining his faith in De Sa, the coach can only be judged at the bitter end, when the Buccanners end the season with, or without silverware in May next year.
Sticking to his guns, De Sa has turned the corner for Pirates in the early stages of the 2013-2014 season, and deserves more time to continue proving himself in the hot seat.