Highlands Park's Owen da Gama embraces Absa Premiership opener with Highlands Park at Orlando Stadium
Posted: 25 July 2018 Time: 19:30
Highlands Park coach Owen da Gama welcomes opening up the season with a side like Orlando Pirates as it will help the Absa Premiership returnees swiftly raise their game.
The Lions of the North, who eased to National First Division honours with a 19-point buffer last term, will visit The Mighty Bucs in their Absa Premiership opener on August 4 at Orlando Stadium (20h15).
"Ja, it's always good because I look at it in a different way you know," Da Gama tells KickOff.com.
"Orlando Pirates were a fantastic team last season, they ended second in the league, and you know at one stage with a bit of luck they would have won the league you know. So they are a fantastic team, and when you come into the PSL you want to play against the best. And I will tell you why, because they raise your game. They allow you to go to another level. It's the best possible start that we could have.
"You know everybody wants a result, but we understand it's gonna be very tough against Pirates. So all we say is... it's really going to help us to gauge where we are, and also to help us go to another level. Pirates are a fantastic team."
That said, Da Gama doesn't believe facing his former club so early in the season will be a baptism of fire for his troops.
"No, that's when you look at it in a negative light, you must always look at things in a positive light. And say what can I gain from this? You don't go write an exam and you say, 'Yhoo! I could fail this exam'. No! You go, you say 'I'm writing this exam, it's a step closer for me to get my certificate'. So for me there's no baptism of fire certificate.
"We played twice against them last year and we held our own, they also did very well you know. So we've learnt a lot from them, and they have made some very, very good signings this season. They have really strengthened their team magnificently. They had a very good pre-season in Zambia, so we know that we are up against it but we are very confident that this is going to help us go to another level as a team.
"Look, if any coach goes into the game and he says 'I want to draw, I want to win', then he shouldn't be coaching at this level. I think everybody wants to win, but at the end of the day we respect Pirates very much. We know that we are the underdogs, so we'll go and work hard. All that we want to do is ... we want to be as competitive as possible. It's all we want to do. We want to compete at the best possible level we can compete."
He adds: "It doesn't matter [playing away from home], football is football. If you start saying you wanna win at home then you can draw away ... you will get relegated. You've got to try and compete whether you are home or away. You've gotta compete as best as you can."