From De Sa to De Star

2013-10-27 10:00

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In the eyes of his detractors, Orlando Pirates coach Roger De Sa has been transformed from Roger “De-Saster” to Roger “De Star”.

A fruitful CAF Champions League run has put the Orlando Pirates trainer 180 minutes away from earning cult hero status from his club’s hard-to-please followers after a bumpy ride in his 13 months with the Buccaneers.

It has been 18 years since Pirates earned their first milestone star and De Sa could lead them to their second.

Not long ago, the coach was accused of surrendering all the trophies – MTN8, Nedbank Cup, Telkom Knockout and the Absa Premiership title – which the club had won for two successive years before his arrival.

But the CAF Champions League first-leg final confrontation with Egypt powerhouse and defending champions Al Ahly at Orlando Stadium on Saturday will measure what is left in the tank for Pirates and De Sa.

They have been subjected to two games a week and they have only played three league games since August.

Finally, the country is united behind Pirates and, for the first time, Saturday’s final could be played in front of a full house.

However, Bucs go into the first leg at Orlando Stadium having not won in their last five continental matches.

The 1995 African champions – who last claimed a 4-1 victory over Zamalek on August 17 – only came this far courtesy of the away-goal rule against Espérance in the semifinals last weekend.

De Sa is optimistic about his team’s chances against seven-time winners Al Ahly.

However, he cautioned against complacency, particularly after Pirates beat the Egyptians away from home.

But Al Ahly showed their superiority when they held Pirates to a draw at Orlando last month and topped the group.

Altitude has no effect on them.

De Sa said he would look only as far back as that goalless draw as it would give him a clear picture of what Al Ahly are capable of.

“For us it’s a 50-50 game and it would be a close call. They have recovered well and they should be favourites going into the final,” said De Sa.

He said the good thing was that Pirates were on a roll and would want to continue with the same momentum.

“It would be to our advantage to take a lead to Cairo, but I will also be happy with a goalless draw.”

But he expects a different Al Ahly to the one Pirates beat.

“Unlike when we played them in the first round, they are no longer naive and know a lot about us. We also know them very well.”

De Sa might be on the verge of glory, but he is not getting carried away just yet.

“We need to put our feet on the ground as we have not achieved anything yet.

“But we cannot come this far to just throw it away. We will fight until the end.”

It has been a long journey for the Buccaneers as their route to the final included playing against last year’s CAF Confederations Cup champions AC Leopards; five-time CAF Champions League champions Zamalek; Al Ahly, the defending seven-time CAF Champions League champions; and Espérance, two-time CAF Champions League winners.

The road to the CAF Champions League final

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