Another useful pre-season workout saw us held to a 1-1 draw by South African champions Orlando Pirates in the second game of the 2011 Vodacom Challenge at the Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit.
Rafael van der Vaart’s excellent 11th minute free-kick capped what was a bright start for us before the Pirates came back into it and found an equaliser five minutes before half-time through Happy Jele.
After a host of half-time substitutions, neither team could find a winner in an entertaining second half as we now await the winner of Thursday’s Soweto derby in Saturday’s final at Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg.
Harry Redknapp named a much-changed starting XI from Saturday’s defeat in Polokwane.
Luka Modric captained a side that included new signing Brad Friedel for the first time, with Bongani Khumalo also making a first Spurs start.
Pirates kept the ball well in the opening stages but we always looked the most dangerous going forward, like when Gareth Bale crashed his way down the left flank before firing over from a tight angle after just five minutes.
And just over 10 minutes later our pressure told when David Bentley won a free-kick 25 yards out and Rafael van der Vaart pinged home our first goal of pre-season with a perfectly struck free-kick.
Pirates were not to be downhearted though and looked to strike back almost immediately when Bongane Ndulula headed wide Jele’s cross at the near post.
However, Jermain Defoe had an even better chance to double our on 22 minutes but couldn’t turn home Bale’s dangerous ball across the face of goal.
The Welshman then tried to match Van der Vaart’s earlier effort with a free-kick from a similar position on 33 minutes, but Senzo Meyiwa was equal to his dipping strike.
And then five minutes before half-time, Pirates were back on level terms almost out of nothing.
Jele played a one-two in the bottom right corner with Isaac Chansa before firing at goal from a tight angle. Friedel got a hand to it, but it wasn’t strong enough to keep the shot out, sending the Nelspruit crowd wild.
It certainly gave Pirates a lift as they looked to get themselves in front before the break with Ndulula striking a dangerous shot across the face of goal.
And then they once again had the ball in Friedel’s net when Daine Klate tapped home after the American stopper had kept out Ndulula’s initial shot but was flagged offside.
So we got back into the dressing rooms on level terms when Harry made a host of changes for the second half.
Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson, Aaron Lennon, Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko came on, with Vedran Corluka assuming an unusual role in the centre of midfield.
Soon after the break, we had a golden chance to go back in front. Bale was once again the provider with a ball across the face of goal that Lennon could only stab wide.
Pirates had also made changes, the most impressive of which, Mark Mayambela, went on a tremendous solo run on the hour mark before firing over from a tight angle.
But we were unlucky not to take the lead three minutes later when Keane linked up well with Niko Kranjcar for the latter to chip over the on-rushing Meyiwa, only for Lucky Lekgwathi to clear off the line.
Keane himself then nearly capitalised on some suspect handling from Meyiwa following Danny Rose’s cross, before Mayambela sent a 30 yard shot just inches wide.
Then, with 10 minutes remaining, some fantastic last ditch defending denied Oupa Manyisa in front of goal following a neat passing move.
Spurs (4-4-1-1): Friedel; Naughton (Walker, 46), Kaboul (Dawson, 46), Khumalo, Rose; Bentley (Lennon, 46), Palacios (Corluka, 46), Modric (Jenas, 61), Bale (Kranjcar, 61); Van der Vaart (Keane, 46); Defoe (Pavlyuchenko, 46)
Goals: Van der Vaart (11)
Pirates (4-3-3): Meyiwa; Jele (Ntusi, 65), Mahamutsa (Sangweni, 46), Lekgwathi (Johannes, 65) Cloete; Chansa (Mayambela, 46), Jali (Ngobeni, 65) Manyisa; Segolela (Bester, 77), Ndulula (Mabena, 74), Klate (Doutie, 46)
Goals: Jele (40)