Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro is troubled by the gap between his team and champions Mamelodi Sundowns, despite securing a CAF Champions League spot.

The Buccaneers finished the DStv Premiership season 23 points behind Sundowns, a disparity Riveiro finds concerning.

Pirates ended their league campaign with a 1-1 draw against SuperSport United at Orlando Stadium. Tshegofatso Mabana, who clinched the Golden Boot with 16 goals, scored for the Pirates, while Gape Moralo found the net for SuperSport.

Despite the draw, Pirates secured second place thanks to Stellenbosch’s 2-1 loss to Richards Bay in a concurrent match.

Reflecting on the season, Riveiro expressed mixed feelings. “It’s fantastic that Pirates are going to be in the Champions League again next season. I am very proud that Pirates will represent SA on the continent,” Riveiro said. He acknowledged the importance of qualifying for the Champions League, especially after their early exit this season at the hands of Jwaneng Galaxy from Botswana.

However, Riveiro emphasized that finishing second isn’t a cause for celebration. “We shouldn’t undermine what it means to be in the Champions League, but we’re not celebrating being second.

“We’re celebrating being in the Champions League. We’ve earned our place there, but being 23 points behind the leaders is not a huge achievement,” he stated.

The Spanish coach highlighted the need to close the gap with Sundowns, who have now secured their seventh consecutive league title. “Our objective from now is to see how we can reduce that gap with whoever is leading the log.

“It’s too much distance between the first and the second position,” Riveiro noted.

Acknowledging the challenge posed by Sundowns, Riveiro stressed that his team must focus on controllable factors. “Even though I’ve said many times that we’re fighting with a team that’s not famous for dropping points frequently, there are things we can control.

“In our last two games, we had opportunities to consolidate second spot but gave away points,” he said, referencing their losses to Richards Bay and Jwaneng Galaxy.

Pirates’ season concludes with the Nedbank Cup final against Sundowns at Mbombela Stadium on Saturday at 15h00. As they prepare for the match, Riveiro’s focus remains on building a team capable of challenging Sundowns’ dominance and making a strong impact in the CAF Champions League next season.