The Absa Premiership comes back to action this coming weekend, and the headline fixture is no doubt at FNB Stadium when defending league champions Kaizer Chiefs face Mamelodi Sundowns. It will be the second time in less than a month that the two giants meet, with Downs having outclassed Amakhosi in the Telkom Knockout final in Durban. Coming into this fixture, the Soweto giants bear the rare tag of the underdogs, and coach Steve Komphela says his team is not out to prove any point: ‘It’s yet another fixture; a point in the championship, a direct confrontation. They’re above us, leading by five points. So we have to go there, and contrary to most people’s expectations, we’re not seeking any revenge. We’re just going out there to play for Kaizer Chiefs supporters.’
The Glamour Boys did not have the first half of the season they would have been looking for, with many having already ruled them out of contention for their first back-to-back league titles since the 2003/04 and 2004/05 seasons. Komphela says that loss against the Brazilians is a distant memory now, and his team has always come back from difficult situations. He says: ‘Our team has a great comeback attitude. The only time we didn’t bounce back quick enough was when we lost the MTN final, and against Tuks where you could see emotionally, physically we were drained. We did not play well and we drew that game. But the other matches where we suffered setbacks, we immediately made great comebacks. Any comebacks are a definition of character.’
Chiefs captain Siphiwe Tshabalala knows that his team has to start winning the big games if they are going to defend their crown this season. They have been accused of lacking big match temperament, having lost cup finals to both Ajax and Sundowns, then losing the Soweto derby against Orlando Pirates. Shabba says they have what it takes to go all the way: ‘What’s important is to close the gap first. and when you get an opportunity to be at the top, you make sure you stay there. To stay there is not easy. It requires a lot of hard work, character, and consistency and I think we are capable of that.’
Chiefs have a busy month ahead, possibly a defining one, where they will also face Bloemfontein Celtic, Platinum Stars, and Pirates at the end of the month. Kick-off for this Saturday’s match at FNB is scheduled for 20:15.
Photo credit: Nick Lourens