Derby Round Two: Gloves Off

Take Two of the Soweto Derby takes place this Saturday at the FNB Stadium when Kaizer Chiefs will again welcome Orlando Pirates.  This time in the Telkom Knockout semi-final.  Amakhosi will be hoping for a better showing this time around after they were slain 3-1 by the Buccaneers in league encounter exactly seven days prior.

Although they picked themselves up with a win by the same scoreline against Golden Arrows in mid-week, it is the loss to their bitter rivals that still lingers in the minds of all associated with Chiefs.  As many of the players will, captain Siphiwe Tshabalala has admitted that they were no match for their opponents:  ‘We have to acknowledge the fact that Pirates were better on the day.  They showed hunger and were aggressive.  But one bad derby doesn’t make us a bad team.  We’re still a quality team with a quality coach.  We know what’s expected of us, and we’ll meet those expectations.’

From what the skipper is saying, it is fair to conclude that their fans can expect a different Chiefs come match day, although he says they are not out to avenge anything: ‘The defeat left a butter taste in our mouths.  But for us it’s not about revenge.  It’s about playing well for ourselves and for the fans.  And going all the way to the final.  It’s every player’s dream to play in the derby and in a game of this calibre.  But most importantly we want to make this game a memorable one.’

It is also worth noting that if the defending league champions do win this weekend, they will importantly, be in their second cup final of the season.  An impressive feat for coach Steve Komphela in only his first four months at the club.  Speaking of the coach, he made four changes to the starting eleven in the Arrows game and rested a few senior players, including Shabba.  Among them was fan favourite Pule Ekstein who was very impressive, but his inexperience in such a massive game will more than likely see him relegated to the bench again.

Tshabalala says:  ‘Yes I think everyone deserves a chance.  We all want to play. Sadly only eleven players can start the game.  The players were given a chance and they did well.  They showed that they have quality hence they play for Kaizer Chiefs.  Everyone is ready for selection.  It’s good when everyone is doing well.  It also gives the coach a good headache as to who to play in the team.’  The Sea Robbers are also under no illusions that this will be an easy game.  One man who dictated terms last week is Thabo Rakhale.

The man was a pleasure to watch, and took both George Lebese and Tsepo Masilela out of the game.  However the man nicknamed “Jomo” knows things can change very quickly when it comes to the derby.  Rakhale says: ‘We can’t judge a derby by the previous performance.  When we won last week it was after we had lost.  But now it’s going to be a tough game.  We know they have prepared and the better team will win.’

“Jomo” has gone from playing in the reserve league to being a very important player in the Pirates set up in a very short period.  Known for his silky skills on the pitch that get the crowd in a roar, he also chips in with important goals and makes the team tick.  He says it all boils down to maturity:  ‘Before when I was playing in the non-professional leagues I was just playing for fun.  I wasn’t mature enough.  I was playing for the fans.  Now I’m playing for the team.’

That win against Chiefs seems to have breathed new life into Pirates as they also went on to have another impressive game against Ajax Cape Town.  Eric Tinkler’s men had been struggling somewhat in domestic football, but look to have tirned the corner at the expense of their long time foe.  Rakhale says:  ‘We’re trying by all means to be consistent.  It’s been a long time without winning two consecutive games.  Even the coach told us we have to change that thing.  That it’s just a mental thing.  I think it’s a matter of consistency and we’re trying by all means to do that.’

It will also do Tinkler a world of good to be in his first domestic cup final since taking over the Pirates ship almost a year ago.  He has been on the receiving end of abuse from the stands in recent times, and a second win over Chiefs in a matter of a week should be enough currency to buy him some more time at the helm, and who knows, might just see him win two trophies for the club.  The Soweto Derby semi-final will kick-off at 15:00, while the Tshwane Derby semi-final between Mamelodi Sundowns and Supersport United is scheduled for an evening kick-off at 20:15.

Photo credit: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix