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Adversity is breakfast for champions – Ncikazi

Orlando Pirates co-coach Mandla Ncikazi says they will turn all the challenges that have faced into an advantage in the CAF Confederation Cup final against RS Berkane.

Ncikazi, together with his co-head coach Fadlu Davids has led to Soweto giants to the cusp of continental glory as they face Botola Pro outfit RS Berkane led by the highly-rated Flotent Ibenge from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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While Pirates hold the pedigree of two African titles and four CAF inter-club finals, Berkane has been in three of the last four CAF Confederation Cup finals now, while lifting the 2019/20 edition – along with Ibenge’s experience as a finalist in the same competition and the CAF Champions League with AS Vita before his move to Morocco.

“It’s a big stage, two great teams, RS Berkane, lots of experience, they have played in this tournament before. Pirates same, we’ve played before so it’s a top clash [against] a very experienced team led by coach [Florent] Ibenge, a top coach so it’s going to be a tough match but we are here as Orlando Pirates to represent our country and badge,” he said ahead of the game.

“We will try and win, give our best game with our very good team, we believe in them, let it be a good match and Pirates hopefully become winners.”

Having arrived late in the early hours of the morning on Thursday with no media present at the time, Ncikazi denied that their travelling and arrival after Berkane could be something the Moroccan side could exploit and mentioned they are looking at the glass half full after analysing areas they feel they could topple their opponents.

“Adversity is breakfast for champions, sometimes when things are proper, that’s when they are not proper, when we have challenges we use that to our advantage,” Ncikazi continued. “For me when that happened, I took that as an advantage.

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“North Africans are very unique in how they play, in how they approach the game, very technical, very strong on set-plays, more European [style] than other teams, very physical but like your advantage can be your disadvantage, they have areas where we think we can exploit them.

“We just have to be ourselves when we have the ball, we have to impose our game, use our individual brilliance which we are good with and if we do that well I think we will surprise our opponents.”

With the final being face days after their second leg semi-final has also refused to criticise the scheduling, saying the challenge they face on the continent is not anything new and they can only focus and control what happens on the pitch.

“The African game has its own dynamics we can’t change, you just have to adapt to sometimes, we are that team that you just have to go through challenges since we’ve been involved in CAF, we’ve always faced challenges,” Ncikazi said confidently. “You go over that and just control what happens within the four lines, there we are in control and whatever happens outside we just put it aside.”

The 1995 African champions face off against Berkane at the Godwil Akpabio Stadium this evening in Uyo, Nigeria at 21h00.

Lorenz Kohler
Lorenz Kohler
Lorenz Köhler is an award-winning South African football journalist. Having cut his teeth in the industry working at Kick-Off Magazine, he is now iDiski Times' senior digital content writer. He specialises in breaking top African football stories and transfers with a major focus on the 'big-three' Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates and CAF inter-club and international competitions. In 2021 he was listed amongst the top-five journalists under 30 in Print Media for the AIPS Awards.