More than a cup up for grabs

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For Tinkler, it would ease the pressure that has constantly followed him in his first full season as head coach of Pirates while it would be a good foundation for Baxter and his future in Pretoria.

Tinkler enjoyed a bit of reprieve when he guided Pirates to the final of the CAF Confederation Cup last year, but losing it to Etoile du Sahel and the struggle that followed afterwards took him back to square one of having to prove once again to the Ghost that he deserves to lead the side.

The club’s passage to the final, going past their arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs, league winners Mamelodi Sundowns along with Jomo Cosmos and Free State Stars, who had beaten the Buccaneers in their home venues where they hosted them in the Nedbank Cup, has brought back the spirit that took Pirates to the final of the Confederation Cup.”Getting to the final of the Confederation Cup is obviously the biggest achievement of my short career as head coach,” Tinkler said.

“This (the Nedbank Cup final) comes second. In terms of what the result will mean for my future, I don’t think about that. I think only about winning the game. I will think about what will happen afterwards.

”What will happen to the winners is participation in the Confederation Cup next year where Tinkler and the Buccaneers have unfinished business. To return there they have to overcome a Matsatsantsa a Pitori side that has dominated them at Peter Mokaba Stadium, United’s second home after Lucas Moripe Stadium.

Apart from a good record at the venue, Matsatsantsa will be pushed by momentum of having shown great fighting spirit under Baxter, losing their timid nature of dropping their heads whenever things don’t go well for them.

They came back from behind twice in this tournament, to beat Mpumalanga Black Aces and University of Pretoria in their road to the final. Kaitano Tembo - United’s assistant coach, who spoke on behalf of the club because Baxter was in hospital on Friday - is in a perfect position to talk about the transformation Baxter has masterminded.

”The difference is that the current team is playing with more confidence and they have freedom to express themselves,” Tembo said.

“We are a little bit more organised as well. We used to concede goals at critical phases of the game but at the moment we are the ones scoring in those moments. We are more focused. We are more consistent. We have the hunger to succeed.

“That’s why we have managed to come back from behind in those games to win them. You can see the determination that the players have shown.”

This Matsatsantsa transformation has happened in a space of four months, after Baxter took over from Gordon Igesund in January making the bigger picture he is looking at start to take shape. Winning this tournament would make that picture look good, while winning it for the Buccaneers would not only make Tinkler breath a huge sigh of relief but return them to continental football where they have reached the final in their last two campaigns.

The Star

Original source: More than a cup up for grabs

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