Leal: Pirates are complete
Johannesburg - Orlando Pirates coach Julio Leal said his side was now "complete and better" and ready to claim their first Telkom Knockout trophy, against Bidvest Wits in the final in Durban on Saturday evening.
The Buccaneers had veered off course in the league after their MTN8 triumph in August, but put on sterling displays in their successive wins against Ajax Cape Town and SuperSport United in the last week.
"What is good is that we are improving these days and now are complete and better, and will have our best performance (in the final)," said Leal after the team's training session on Wednesday.
"We want to realise our dream of putting the names of Pirates players and staff on this cup."
Pirates were runner's up to Kaizer Chiefs in the R4.25 million trophy last season - the only title that eluded them in their near-perfect campaign where they won the treble.
The Clever Boys, however, are a spirited outfit, known to put up a good fight against bigger teams, and outclassed Pirates in their league meeting in Nelspruit last month.
Wits were clinical in a 3-1 victory, where Pirates, in contrast, were woeful as they struggled to get any momentum going.
It was a skeleton Pirates side on the day, missing a number of their regulars due to injury and suspension, including influential veterans in captain Lucky Lekgwathi and striker Benni McCarthy.
Lekgwathi's presence brings calm at the back for Leal, while with McCarthy - who is still the country's all-time leading scorer - the team seems to have a better chance of finding the back of the net.
As much as Leal expected Wits coach Roger de Sa to have a strong tactical plan on the day, he said Pirates' cup experience would be to their advantage.
The Pirates' squad had been declared fit with the exception of midfielder Dikgang Mabalane who was still nursing a niggling hamstring.
"I can't speak about their team's tactics, only mine," Leal said.
"We know more about them after the game where, on the day, they were the better team and they also are in good shape.
"The presence of our captain (Lekgwathi) and Benni is important, but there were other players out for an assortment of reasons when we played them.
"With Benni, we get stronger and more mature and are able to maintain more possession, and he can make a difference."
Having won four of the last five domestic titles on offer, Pirates will enter with the fray as favourites over their youthful but talented Wits opponents at Moses Mabhida Stadium on the weekend.
Pirates leave for KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday, where they can expect a strong support base in the stands at the 54 000 seating venue.
"We have worked on the physical side and recovery, and today we started working on the tactical aspects," Leal said.
"We want the team to be simple and committed for the 90 or 120 minutes, or the possibility of penalty shoot-outs."