We are on the level of Sundowns, Orlando Pirates’ Mandla Ncikazi tells Liberian media
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Cape Town — Big-talking Orlando Pirates co-coach Mandla Ncikazi shot his mouth off about his club being on the level of Mamelodi Sundowns, who have won multiple competitions both on the domestic and continental front.
In stark contrast, Pirates have won the odd championship in domestic competition over the last while.
Ncikazi was addressing Liberia's football media at a post-match conference after his side defeated LPRC Oilers in the first leg of the CAF Confederation Cup play-off on Sunday. Pirates produced a vastly improved performance and secured a 2-0 advantage ahead of their second leg in Soweto on Sunday.
Somehow it is hard to believe that Ncikazi could say that Pirates is on the same level as Sundowns, who are in the running to win a fifth consecutive Premiership title this season. Pirates last won the Premiership in 2011–12. Presently, Pirates in seventh place, are 12 points adrift of log-leaders Sundowns.
"We are on the level of Sundowns, but we even have more support than Sundowns," said Ncikazi. "Pirates is a big team in South Africa; you are expected to win every match, every weekend."
Ncikazi said Pirates are on the way to striking their best form and are battling with a slew of injuries.
"Pirates are not achieving at their best, but we understand the process," said Ncikazi. "It is the new leadership (the players are still coming to grips with), and many players have been injured.
"We are on the right track towards achieving big things. There is an improvement.
"It is important that we have momentum now. We are on the right track towards achieving big things.
“It was not an easy match. In CAF competitions, it is important to score away from home.
“We could have scored more, but I am just happy that we scored at least two goals because if you score one you still give the opponent a chance.”
“Half of our squad that played last season are not here.
"We have one (squad) that started playing today who has never played this season in South Africa."
Pirates will now turn their attention to Thursday's home Premiership clash against struggling Baroka. Several players have shown excellent form and Pirates can look to continue their winning streak after defeating Stellenbosch FC last time out in the Premiership.
Experienced defender Ntsikelelo Nyauza is leading from the front with a solid workrate in the rearguard. He does well to sense danger and snuff it out before it becomes a threat. He is an excellent man marker.
Behind Nyauza, goalkeeper Siyabonga Mpontshane is establishing himself as one of the best goalmouth custodians in the Premiership. He has kept two clean sheets in a row and given Baroka's toothless attack, he is set for another. He is a master of clearing goalmouth crosses into the striking zone. He pulled off one masterful save against Oilers on Sunday.
At the heart of Pirates' resurgence is Fortune Makaringe, who was one of the stars in Liberia where his playmaking skills came to the fore. He was the heartbeat of the side, and since he reads the game well, he is able to lay on passes that can be defence-splitting.
He has a penchant for scoring goals from the midfield as he showed in Liberia last Sunday.