It is a Cup final that feels like a sequel.

The time of the year is early December. The team allocated the “away” tag is Orlando Pirates, and they are the favourites to end a trophy drought. The name of the team allocated the “home” tag starts with the letter B, and they are the underdogs coming into the Cup final.

On 8 December 2018, Orlando Pirates played Baroka in the 2018 Telkom Cup final and lost 2-3 on penalties after extra time. There is a feeling that the script is familiar.

4 – Pirates have lost each of their last four domestic Cup finals (2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018). Only one PSL side (Sundowns in the early 2000s) has lost five domestic finals in a row.

Even then, there was a league title as consolation during that dry run. Indeed, since the heady days of the double treble, Pirates have won just one of the seven finals they have appeared in. Yet, the manner in which they dismantled Kaizer Chiefs in the semi-finals could suggest that this is an altogether different side.

5 – Pirates’ 5-0 aggregate victory in the semi-final was the joint-biggest margin of victory in a two-legged semi in the history of the #MTN8 competition, equaling Chiefs’ 5-0 aggregate win over Platinum Stars in 2014.

Inconsistency plagues Pirates

For all their brilliance, Josef Zinnbauer’s Pirates have also shown fleeting moments of inconsistency in equal measure. With 27 games under his management (almost a full league season), the time for learning on the job and building for the future is past for Zinnbauer.

Brilliant before lockdown, not-so-brilliant post-lockdown, it has been hard to accurately gauge how good this Pirates side is. The moment you think they look like potential title challengers, they draw against Baroka or Stellenbosch, and the moment you think they are also-rans, they manage to come back from a half-time deficit to win against SuperSport United. The outcome of Saturday’s final may depend heavily on which Pirates decide to show up.

Their most recent record in this fixture will give them a boost:

1 – Pirates have lost just one of the last eight fixtures played against Celtic (all competitions), scoring in all but two of those games. They also won this season’s league fixture 1-0, thanks to a late Siphesihle Ndlovu goal.

Full circle for John Maduka

3 – Celtic have reached a second successive domestic Cup final for the first time in the PSL era. They have reached more finals in the last four seasons (3) that they managed in the 21 seasons before then (2).

Celtic themselves are slowly building a reputation as a Cup side. This will be Siwelele’s third final in four seasons, although they lost each of the last two.

This season, they have already
knocked out the league champions and the defending MTN8 champions on their way to the final, setting them up for a historic cup win.

2 – The side that knocked out the defending MTN8 champions has gone on to win the tournament in each of the last two tournament editions.

While Zinnbauer leads Pirates, former captain and Malawi international, John Maduka will be on the touchline for the men from Bloem. He was a player for Bloemfontein Celtic when they
reached their only other PSL-era Top8 final (2005 Supa8, which they won). He is now the head coach leading them to the #MTN82020 final. Pirates’ record in Cup finals will give him and his troops confidence that they can overcome.

37% – Orlando Pirates have a 37% win rate in domestic Cup finals in the PSL era, the lowest ratio of all sides to have participated in at least two finals.

By Opta Jabu

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