Pirates coach Zinnbauer ahead of Sundowns showdown: 'now we have a system'
Mamelodi Sundowns may be a winning machine‚ but Orlando Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer says his team are increasingly clicking into clockwork-like understanding of his game model too‚ ahead of Thursday’s Nedbank Cup quarterfinal between the two.
Pirates have gone 18 matches with just two defeats as they encounter the perhaps marginally more star-studded and brutally efficient Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld (kickoff 6pm) in a clash that is regularly the highlight of the SA football calendar.
Those 18 games followed a slump of nine where Bucs won just three times‚ effectively costing the fifth-placed DStv Premiership team their shot at the league title‚ a target Zinnbauer admitted this week is probably out of reach now.
But the MTN8 champions still have a chance at a double‚ or even treble‚ as Sunday’s 3-0 home win against Al Ahli Benghazi means Bucs top Group A in the Caf Confederation Cup.
Zinnbauer was asked about Pirates’ nine-match slump‚ where injuries played a part in a lot of chopping and changing‚ and the subsequent far more successful 18 matches‚ where he and assistant Fadlu Davids appear to have gotten their combinations working much better.
“It’s always not so easy when you have lost key players. Last week it was Thabang Monare‚ you lost Thembinkosi Lorch in the first [weeks of the season]‚ and then it was Zakhele Lepasa‚ then Tshegofatso Mabasa‚” he said. “These were all players who were giving us a good performance on what we want in the system. In the past then you had not one striker on the bench‚ not one starting‚ and then you have to change the system a bit.
“We cannot‚ like a typical ‘9’ like Lepasa or Mabasa‚ and then you have Lorch there‚ then say you will play the same. And that’s always what you have to manage as a coach – it’s not a problem. “And now you cannot train for the last weeks or month‚ with 11 players [on international duty for the Fifa dates]. And people will say‚ ‘Now you have breaks and you have time to improve the team’.
“But 10 players were with their national teams. And then you get five or six coming back with injuries. ... And normally the national players are playing in the [club’s] starting XI. “But now we have a system‚ or we have implemented different systems with different tactics with the ball and without the ball‚ and we are coming closer to what we want.
“And I hope in the coming weeks we are very flexible in these systems and tactics. The supporters can say you play a 4-2-3-1‚ or whatever‚ but on the field we have different systems and tactics with and without the ball. “And we have improved this‚ we are moving forward and I hope we get the players back soon and then we can always play flexibly‚ depending on which players we have‚ and which opponents we have‚ and that we are good in the shape.
“What’s important is that you get the results. Now we have to focus not on the league‚ but this tournament. And most of the time [in a cup tournament] you don’t need tactics as much‚ you need the power. “You want to win the game‚ and if you have 11 players on that pitch who want to win you can beat Sundowns.” Pirates beat Uthongathi (1-0) and Maritzburg United (3-1) to reach the Nedbank quarters. Sundowns beat Stellenbosch FC (3-2 in extra time) and Polokwane City (4-0).