Pirates meet Bloemfontein Celtic at Orlando Stadium in the Nedbank Cup quarterfinals on Saturday night (8.30pm).
Phungwayo said the Buccaneer ship will be cruising at all sails‚ cannons blazing for the competition that now represents their last chance at silverware in 2016-17.
A few factors have seen battling Pirates improve to the point where they have lost just one game under new coach Kjell Jonevret‚ which must make wounded Bucs a dangerous contender for the Nedbank.
One has been a vastly improved structure in their back four. The defensive midfield partnership of Issa Sarr and Abbubaker Mobara have provided an added buffer in front of the defence.
And Jonevret has done something right to finally nurse his key midfielders‚ captain Oupa Manyisa and Mpho Makola‚ back to form in Bucs’ attack.
“The Nedbank is very big‚” Phungwayo said.
“Pirates are all about competing in Africa‚ and the Nedbank can get us there‚ especially since we are not going to be in position one or two in the league.
“So now we are gunning everything to reach the final.”
He said Bucs have been relieved to see Manyisa and Makola find a semblance of form.
“We were talking about it recently that it’s a team sport but if three players that we usually rely on are not on form‚ then of course the team as a whole is a disaster‚” Bucs’ left-back said.
“So if Oupa and Mpho Makola are getting their form back it benefits the team. It gives us confidence also.
“You can imagine as a full-back‚ if your midfielders are not on form it’s very hard to have the confidence to go.
“Now with them on form you have the confidence to go.
“So things are getting back. Yes‚ it’s late. But we just want to be part of the top eight and of course to win the Nedbank.”
One of the changes made by Jonevret in his back four has been that his full-backs‚ Phungwayo and Thabo Matlaba‚ are more circumspect about when to go forward.
“It’s the system. But of course‚ now with Issa and Mobara in defensive midfield it can also give us more freedom to go‚” Phungwayo explained.
Celtic will continue with caretaker-coaches Lehlohonolo Seema and John Maduka on their bench after the blow of Luc Eymael being ordered back to previous club Polokwane City this week by the PSL’s dispute resolution committee.
Celtic and Eymael are considering an appeal.
- TMG Digital/TMG Sport