The question on many football followers’ lips these days must be: Who will stop the Sundowns juggernaut?
Following their perfect run in the CAF Champions League that culminated with them being crowned Kings of Africa on Sunday, they arrived in South Africa on Wednesday and showed no signs of fatigue whatsoever as they clinically eliminated Polokwane City from the Telkom Knockout Cup via a 2-0 victory.
With that out of the way, and a quarter-final draw that pitted ’Downs against neighbours SuperSport United, Kaizer Chiefs against Free State Stars, Orlando Pirate v Highlands Park and newcomers Baroka FC against another new kid on the block, Cape Town City, focus shifts to the Big one: The Soweto Derby.
This is the fixture that brings South Africa to a standstill and is the only soccer match able to fill up the 90 000-plus-seater FNB Stadium.
Going into this match, the two Soweto giants have been enjoying different runs. While Muhsin Ertugral is skating on thin ice as positive results have not been forthcoming for the Buccaneers, things seem to be sooth-sailing for Steve Komphela, at last for now.
Just on Sunday, Pirates had to score a last-gasp goal to salvage a point after being outplayed by Polokwane City who squandered several chances and paid the utmost price.
On the other hand, Komphela’s Chiefs are perched at the top of the log following a string of victories.
However, this is the ingredient that always makes the derby even more exciting. It is never guaranteed that the club that is on form at the time of the derby will emerge the winner.
So many times has the form book thrown out of the window that since that first Soweto Derby way back in 1970, it has been so hard to call the score of this match that many soccer pundits have given up. It usually depends on which team turns up on the day and who wants it the most.
With Amakhosi having won the first derby of the season 2-0, albeit being what may call a “friendly” - there are no friendlies between these bitter rivals - the Carling Black Label Cup that is contested by the two sides year in and year out, and going through a bad patch, Pirates might just be the ones who want victory more.
And, lest we forget, despite the club doing badly at the moment, Ertugral is a master tactician who has proved it time and again, with the latest being his conquests with unfashionable Mpumalanga Black Aces whom he took to a fourth-position finish last season.
Komphela seems to have found is footing and his team is managing even to scrap through 1-0 victories which usually turn important at the end of the season as they result to three (maximum) points per game, which translates to a 100% achievement.
So whether Chiefs are riding the crest of the wave and Pirates are almost rock bottom, fireworks are always expected. And this derby - South Africa’s most important fixture - should be no different.
S'Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning over 30 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.
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