Johannesburg -. It is time for the Soweto derby to reclaim its position as the most entertaining game in the domestic league
After recent unimpressive performances, this game has been relegated to just another encounter. Supporters have even considered the Mamelodi Sundowns versus Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs as the most fiercely contested matches in South African football than the traditional derby.
But on Saturday, the two Soweto greats will get a chance to prove – once and for all – that this is the game that supporters want to see.
There is no more opportune time to win supporters and the nation’s hearts than now.
Fans will be hoping that both teams bring their A-game on derby day to ensure the match does not end in a draw – like it did in the first half of the season.
This game has all the ingredients of a classic encounter because both sides need to win to keep their chances of winning the most coveted prize in local football alive. It is a case of winner takes all.
For the first time in many seasons, this game has meaning for both teams, who are fighting for the chance to challenge Sundowns at the top.
Both sides have enjoyed good form this year and would want to continue along these lines. Before this weekend’s round of matches, they were sitting second and third on the log.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN THE BATTLE
A few players are expected to get their first taste of the derby, which might make or break them.
A lot will be expected from the likes of Leonardo Castro and Siphelele Ntshangase, as well as the man who has been Chiefs’ saviour in recent games, Ryan Moon. There will be no bigger game for Ntshangase to finally prove his worth to Amakhosi supporters after his much publicised move last month. He is yet to live up to expectations and his champagne passes have been wayward.
Pirates will be hoping that the likes of Phetso Maphanga, Xola Mlambo and Justin Shonga are not overwhelmed by the occasionas the derby can cause players to freeze on the pitch.
Potential match winners
Pirates’ Luvuyo Memela has come of age and has been impressive in the past few games for the Buccaneers. With no noticeable striker to bang in goals, the left-footed midfielder has the potential to unlock Chiefs’ defence and find the back of the net.
Memela often finds himself at the right place at the right moment. His only downfall is that he sometimes tries too much and his decision making often lets him down.
Joseph Molangoane has been Chiefs’ go-to player when the chips are down. His runs on the right flank always cause trouble for opposition sides, but he needs to improve on his delivery of crosses.
Goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune often keeps clean sheets for Amakhosi and launches attacks from the back.
A lot will depend on which teams the coaches send in to do the job. Expect a cautious approach on the pitch, as both teams are more afraid to lose than they are prepared to go all out for the win.
With an assortment of injuries plaguing his team, Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic is not spoilt for choice while the likes of Thabo Qalinge and Thabiso Kutumela nurse long-term injuries. New recruits Augustine Mulenga and Diamond Thopola are also nursing knocks, but midfielder Mpho Makola has resumed training after a spell on the sidelines.
But there are those who have already raised their hands to be considered, with Bernard Morrison topping the list of potentials.
On the other hand, Chiefs coach Steve Komphela will have a selection headache as most of his players are available for the tie. He is likely to go with two strikers, knowing that attack is the best form of defence.