Orlando Pirates will be travelling to the known in the group phase of the CAF Confederation Cup after clubs from Congo, Egypt and Tunisia booked their places alongside the Buccaneers.
Pirates now face AC Leopards of the Congo, CS Sfaxien from Tunisia and Cairo giants Zamalek in Group B, who are all clubs that can make things difficult for the South Africans.
Bucs open their campaign on June 28 away in Dolisie where they faced Leopards two years ago in the group stages of the African Champions League and were beaten by a freak long-range goal.
They also had Zamalek in the same group two years ago with Pirates winning 4-1 at home but losing 2-1 away against the Egyptians, who have long been in the shadow of their more illustrious neighbours Al Ahly.
But this season, Zamalek have a nine-point lead at the head of the Egyptian league standings and are on course for the title after an 11-year drought. They have had something of a revival under the veteran Portuguese coach Jesualdo Ferreira, who arrived at the start of the year.
Tunisia’s CS Sfaxien are the other side in Group B after edging out ASEC Abidjan of the Ivory Coast 3-1 on aggregate. It means a potentially tasty return match between Pirates and ASEC, who faced each other in the Champions Cup final 20 years ago, will now not happen.
Sfaxien, who also have a Portuguese coach in Paulo Duarte, will be tough opponents. They have won the Confederation Cup a record three times, the last in 2013.
Meanwhile, organisers of the Carling Black Label Cup – a pre-season friendly between Pirates and rivals Kaizer Chiefs – will get a new date as Bucs will be involved in continental action on July 25.
“We are currently finalising an alternative game date with both teams,” the organisers said in a statement.
“The match date was set in June last year before the CAF calendar was released, and we therefore could not have anticipated the potential clash with the Confederation Cup. We are willing to make adjustments in order to accommodate Orlando Pirates in this regard and will make an announcement in this regard in due course,” Black Label general manager Vijay Govindsamy said.
Fans can still continue to vote by purchasing a specially marked bottle of Black Label beer and look out for the unique underliner which will allow them to vote.