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Orlando Pirates coach Mandla Ncikazi. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/BACKPAGEPIX/STEVE HAAG
Orlando Pirates coach Mandla Ncikazi. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/BACKPAGEPIX/STEVE HAAG

Coach Mandla Ncikazi did not get the semifinal opponents he wished for but gave the assurance that Orlando Pirates are in the last four of the Caf Confederation Cup to win it.

Pirates reached the semifinals with a 4-3 penalty shoot-out win over Tanzania’s Simba SC at Orlando Stadium on Sunday to set up a date with Libya’s Al Ahli Tripoli.

The quarterfinal in Soweto ended level as Pirates won the return leg 1-0 to tie the aggregate score 1-1.

Striker Kwame Peprah met Innocent Maela’s cross from the left with a powerful header to give the home side a win by the same margin as Simba’s in the first leg in Dar es Salaam.

In the other quarterfinal‚ which kicked off two hours after Pirates’ victory‚ Al Ahli Tripoli won the Libyan derby 1-0 on aggregate as they defeated Al Ittihad Tripoli with a solitary goal at home to set up a semifinal date against Bucs. The first leg ended goalless 

Ncikazi said his preferred semifinal opponent was Al Ittihad‚ who held Pirates to a goalless draw in Orlando and won 3-2 in Benghazi in the group stages.

“It’s better the devil you know than the one you don’t and I know the field‚” Ncikazi said of Pirates’ trip to Libya in February.

“I know how difficult it is to travel there and we know the hotel. I’d rather have a second bite of what we have experienced already‚ difficult as it is with the customs in that country‚ where we don’t even have an embassy.”

Ncikazi will be glad to know Pirates should have the comfort of using the same route‚ hotel and training facilities. Both Al Ittihad and Al Ahli are Tripoli clubs, but there are no venues that meet Caf standards in the Libyan capital so the two teams play their matches 650km to the east, in Benghazi.

Ncikazi and co-coach Fadlu Davids have nothing to show in terms of silverware and are scrambling to finish as runners-up, or third, in the Premier Soccer League (PSL).

Pirates lost the 2013 Champions League and 2015 Confederation Cup finals under Roger de Sa and Eric Tinkler respectively.

“Pirates have always been in African championships. I don’t think there is anything new‚” Ncikazi said of the semifinal achievement. “It also helps us that some of the players have been part of that history. So it helps with that experience.

“With the history this club has done it before [in 1995] we should [win]‚ and my wish is that Pirates should get into the main one which is the Champions League — without saying the Confederation Cup is the easier one‚ it’s still a big honour.”

Pirates‚ who are fifth on 39 points in the PSL‚ will have to win at least four of their remaining five matches to finish second, or third, and qualify for next season’s Caf competitions.

Bucs host Chippa United at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday.

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