The competition’s defending champions were expected to cruise to a comfortable victory, but a brave performance from the fourth-tier hosts, particularly their goalkeeper Celi Ndwandwe who claimed the Man of the Match prize, meant the Buccaneers had to sweat to claim the win.
Pirates dominated the game from early on, but it was Ethekwini who almost took a lead inside the first 10 minutes, with midfielder Sihle Ndluli unlucky to see his goal-bound effort cleared off the line by Thabo Matlaba after ghosting past Moeneeb Josephs.
From then on it was the Buccaneers who looked likely to find the back of the net, as they dominated the middle of the park and made effective use of their wide players, but Ndwandwe proved a difficult man to beat.
On 16 minutes he produced a great diving save to turn away a swerving long-range shot from Oupa Manyisa, and six minutes later he showed great reactions to keep out a Benni McCarthy header.
Pirates thought they had scored deep into injury time at the end of the first half when Manyisa saw a long range effort rebound off the crossbar, allowing Isaac Chansa to turn home the loose ball, but the Zambian midfielder was flagged offside.
Bucs kept up the pressure in the second half and almost broke the deadlock on 55 minutes when Ndwandwe parried a low effort from Dikgang Mabalane into the path of Thandani Ntshumayelo, but the midfielder put his effort off target.
On 73 minutes Ndwandwe came up with another excellent save, just about keeping out Tlou Segolela’s shot after Ethekwini had failed to clear their lines and allowed the Pirates winger a chance to get away an effort on goal from inside the penalty area.
10 minutes later McCarthy almost found a goal but his well-struck free kick flashed over the crossbar. By this stage Ethekwini were really struggling with players suffering from cramp and injuries as a result of the high tempo of the match.
Finally, on 86 minutes, Pirates found the back of the net. Defender Siyabonga Sangweni, who has become a real kingpin at set pieces since moving to the Buccaneers at the start of the season, headed home from a corner.
It was cruel on brave Ethekwini, but in truth they had offered little going forward and only a great defensive performance, especially from their goalkeeper, had kept them in the match up until conceding the late goal.