Orlando Pirates triumph over Mamelodi Sundowns in historic Nedbank Cup final

The first-ever match played at Mbombela Stadium to sell out within 24 hours, the 2023/24 Nedbank Cup final between Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns, was a historic event.

The 2023/24 Nedbank Cup final, contested by Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns at Mbombela Stadium last weekend, was a historic occasion on a variety of fronts.

The announcement that the Nedbank Cup final would return to Mbombela Stadium for the first time since 2011 came on April 14 after TS Galaxy were knocked out of the Nedbank Cup at the quarter-final stage. Soon afterwards, the finalists were confirmed to be DStv Premiership champions Mamelodi Sundowns and Nedbank Cup defending champions Orlando Pirates.

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To say the fixture was highly anticipated would perhaps be an understatement. Tickets sold like hot cakes, and according to Mbombela Stadium management, the final became the first-ever match held at the stadium to have tickets sell out within 24 hours.

Prior to the 2023/24 season, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns had only ever met once in a Nedbank Cup final, all the way back in 1998 when Sundowns won their second Nedbank Cup trophy. This year also marked the 19th time that Orlando Pirates would take part in a Nedbank Cup final, meaning they now hold the record for the most appearances in the competition’s final, surpassing Kaizer Chiefs’ total of 18.

The Orlando Pirates team celebrates its victory. > Photos: Blake Linder

The final got under way on time on Saturday June 1, and it was Masandawana who seemed more ready for the occasion as they came firing out of the blocks in the opening exchanges. They won a penalty within the first 10 minutes, but Lucas Ribeiro was unable to make use of the chance.

From there, the momentum levelled out for the remainder of the half, as the score was 0-0 when the whistle blew for half time. Only nine minutes into the second half, Themba Zwane handed Sundowns the lead with a neat finish to round off a well-worked team goal for Masandawana.

Sipho Chaine celebrates after saving Lucas Ribeiro’s penalty in the early stages of the game. > Photos: Blake Linder

Their joy was relatively short-lived, though, as 15 minutes later, Pirates won a penalty of their own, and Patrick Maswanganyi did what Ribeiro could not and slotted home the penalty in the 71st minute to draw Pirates level at 1-1.

This set the game up for a thrilling conclusion, and both sides were dead set on getting the winning goal. It wouldn’t come until the very last kick of the match, though, when a brilliant piece of skill was finished off with a shot into the far right corner from 19-year-old Relebohile Mofokeng.

An elated Monnapule Saleng celebrates Orlando Pirates taking the lead in the final minute of the game. > Photos: Blake Linder

The goal in the 94th minute crushed Sundowns’ hopes of adding another trophy to their cabinet this season. This sent the fans in the stadium into delirium, with the vast majority of those who made the trek for the final being Orlando Pirates supporters.

The Nedbank Cup triumph is the Buccaneers’ second trophy of the season, adding to their MTN8 victory last year. It is also their 10th Nedbank Cup trophy, making them only the second club after Kaizer Chiefs to reach the milestone.

Mamelodi Sundowns fans’ hearts were broken by Orlando Pirates’ last-minute win. > Photos: Blake Linder

One aspect of the final that seemed to be the only ill-fated part of what was a brilliant day, was the incredible amount of traffic that came into Mbombela along with the 40 000 fans that filled the stadium.
It caused severe traffic delays right around the city, seemingly for people travelling in any direction.

The Lydenburg road as well as the R40 and N4 had all slowed to a crawl at one point as traffic officials seemed to struggle to ensure efficient traffic flow. This meant that quite a few fans were late for the match, and only got to watch the second half, but the stadium was still filled to the rafters when the game resumed for the second period.

Orlando Pirates are the champions of the 2023/24 Nedbank Cup. > Photos: Blake Linder

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