Dutch coach Ruud Krol is understandably nervous even though Orlando Pirates are overwhelming favourites to beat Black Leopards tomorrow in the South African FA Cup final and complete a domestic treble. Krol twice suffered the greatest football heartache of them all, finishing on the losing Netherlands side in the FIFA World Cup™ finals of 1974 and 1978 against hosts West Germany and Argentina respectively.
Former African champions Pirates against second-tier Leopards in eastern city Nelspruit is a classic David versus Goliath contest as the Soweto club seek more silverware after collecting the league title and Top 8 Cup.
"Leopards are going to be difficult opponents because they have nothing to lose," cautions Krol, whose three-year contract expires after the game with no word on whether it will be renewed. "I have warned my players that every club wants to beat the champions and Leopards will be exceptionally motivated."
Krol, who coached in Belgium, Switzerland, Egypt and France before joining the Buccaneers in 2008, praised his team which also reached the League Cup final this season only to be thumped 3-0 by arch rivals Kaizer Chiefs. "Reaching all three cup finals and winning the championship ... I believe the players have done a fantastic job and were the most consistent team in South Africa."
Pirates succeeded despite lengthy injury absences of two vital cogs - FIFA World Cup goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs and wide midfielder Daine Klate - with captain and centre-back Lucky Lekgwathi and midfielder Tlou Segolela the key players in their successes. Lekgwathi completed 300 appearances for the Buccaneers last week and is a wise head among young team-mates while Segolela is the 'Usain Bolt' of South African football with his electrifying speed responsible for many goals.
Star-less Leopards hail from Thohoyandou, a town in the north east of the country, and faced only one Premiership opponent in a four-match march to the final which offers six million rand ($850,000) to the winners.
Former Zimbabwe centre-back, captain and coach Sunday Chidzambwa guides the team and has no illusions about the task awating his players before a sell-out 43,000 crowd at Mbombela Stadium, a 2010 FIFA World Cup venue.
"Defeating Pirates will be like trying to move a mountain. However, we watch them on TV every week and know a lot more about them than they do about us. I hope my players will not be intimidated by the occasion," he said.