POLOKWANE, South Africa: SuperSport United survived a late onslaught from title favourites Orlando Pirates on Sunday to win the South African FA Cup finals 3-2 in northern city Polokwane.
After falling behind to a Luvoyo Memela goal, SuperSport scored through New Zealanders Jeremy Brockie and Michael Boxall, and Bradley Grobler to lead 3-1 at half-time.
A Clayton Daniels own-goal halved the deficit and Pirates were camped in the United half for much of the second period, coming close to leveling several times.
“Character was our biggest quality today,” said England-born SuperSport coach Stuart Baxter, who joined the club in mid-season after poor league form cost Gordon Igesund his job.
Former South Africa coach Baxter is a serial winner in the republic at club level, guiding Kaizer Chiefs to the 2013 and 2015 league titles.
Success earned SuperSport seven million rand ($450,000, 400,000 euros) and a place in the 2017 CAF Confederation Cup.
“The result was a massive disappointment for us,” said Pirates coach Eric Tinkler, who ended the season without a trophy.
Reports said the former South Africa midfielder faced the sack if the Soweto club did not beat Pretoria-based SuperSport with former Nigeria coach Stephen Keshi a possible replacement.
New CAF club format adds quarterfinals
The new-look CAF club competitions will include quarterfinals for the first time and have one less qualifying round, the African football body said on Tuesday.
Starting next year, the group stages of the annual Champions League and Confederation Cup competitions expand from eight clubs to 16.
After two two-legged qualifying rounds, the 16 Champions League survivors will be split into four groups with clubs playing their three opponents at home and away.
Group winners and runners-up progress to the quarterfinals.
After two two-legged qualifying rounds in the Confederation Cup, the 16 survivors play the Champions League last-32 losers for group places.
The remainder of the competition—the African equivalent of the UEFA Europa League—will be similar in format to the Champions League.
CAF have not announced increased prize money, but rises are expected after the recent announcement of a one billion dollar (900 million euros) 12-year TV and marketing deal.
The 2016 Champions League winners will receive $1.5 million (1.3 million euros) and the Confederation Cup winners $660,000 (595,000 euros).
Clubs have consistently complained that success does not pay in CAF competitions with travel costs soaking up prize money.
CAF said 20 dates between March and December have been reserved for the 2017 club competitions.