Johannesburg – In the land of cliché-ridden football-speak, Daine Klate can provide a refreshing, humorous alternative – even when he’s talking about cliché-ridden football speak.
At the press conference ahead of Saturday’s Soweto derby MTN8 semi-final, first leg (FNB Stadium, 3pm kick-off), Klate was in top form, no more so than when answering a question on why footballers so often “sugarcoat” their answers, without enough “straight-talk”.
“Sometimes when I drive to training there is this lady on Metro who you can phone and ask for answers about lifestyle and lovelife,” said Klate, with the merest hint of a smile.
“I think that is the lady you want to call if you want a straightforward answer.”
His diminutive frame and boyish features gives Klate a permanently youthful stamp, but the 28-year-old winger has been at the top of the South African game long enough to know how to play to a crowd.
Mostly it’s been on the field that Klate has reeled in the applause, with a medal haul to make him the envy of any top-flight player – five Absa Premiership winners medals, the MTN8, the Telkom Knockout and the Nedbank Cup – Klate has won the lot.
Off the pitch, there is a wily sense of humour, that at times had the media fray in stitches. Take this answer to a fan who wanted to know his predicted score for Saturday’s game.
“I think if I am an optimist, let’s repeat the Zamalek scoreline (Pirates beat Zamalek 4-1 in the Caf Champions League last Saturday),” said the Buccaneers winger, tongue firmly in cheek, before taking a mock dive behind his desk.
“Chiefs people won’t love me for saying 4-1 to us, but if you ask me to predict I will say that.”
If Klate the entertainer enjoyed a little tease at the Amakhosi, then Klate the realist knows Saturday’s game is likely to be far more cagey.
Soweto Derbies can be tight affairs at the best of times, and this being the first leg of a semi-final, a surprise appearance from R Kelly is more likely than an all-out assault from either side.
“Obviously everyone wants a derby to end 3-2 or 4-3, but you have to take into consideration that this competition is over two legs,” said Klate.
“We would love to give an open game, but a lot is at stake – R8-million, bragging rights and a trophy. You can’t just go out on the field, run around like headless chickens and give an exciting game that everyone wants.
“Of course you want to score and have an open game, but both teams have a lot of respect for each other and you don’t want to make silly mistakes.
“It will probably be a bit like a boxing match – jab, jab, jab until the second leg.
“You don’t want to go out and get exposed and come back for the second leg with nothing to play for.”
Chiefs have certainly earned the right of respect from Pirates under Stuart Baxter, their league and cup double last season shifting the Soweto power base, after two campaigns of treble-winning dominance from the Buccaneers.
The Amakhosi gained the better of the pre-season sparring that was the Carling Black Label Cup final too, emerging 1-0 winners. Pirates, however, have had their own reason to cheer as the new season has spread its wings, continental hammerings of Egyptian giants Al Ahly (3-0) and Zamalek (4-1) putting them firmly atop their Champions League group.
Now they just have to re-find their domestic dominance, which has eluded them pretty much since the start of the year.
“I think the main problem between the domestic games and the Champions League is attitude,” was Klate’s take on the matter.
“In the Champions League we have been going for it … back at home the vibe has been a bit different.
“But we have had a chat and spoken about it as players – we must have the same mentality as in the Champions League. Roger (De Sa) has been the first to be on our backs. We need to play every game as if it is our last.”
Klate’s own form has picked up again after a dip last season, and he excelled against Zamalek, creating two goals and scoring another, in an amazing Pirates team display.
“I think first of all we had to buy in to Roger’s philosophy,” says Klate.
“And things seem to be shaping up quite well at the moment. The team is playing exceptionally well, and if the team does well the individual will shine. Take Zamalek, everyone including the substitutes came in and made a difference. It becomes easy when your teammates are making good movements and good runs into the box.”
Goalscoring is another Pirates issue from last season that seems to be picking up this campaign, with new striker Lennox Bacela already scoring in Africa and on the domestic front.
“I think Lennox coming in obviously has made a bit of a difference for us up front,” says Klate.
“Lennox adds a different dimension to our play, he can come short or go deep behind their defence, he is always looking to get the ball.”
Another Pirates new recruit is an old ally of Klate’s from his SuperSport days, Kermit Erasmus.
Erasmus is still settling in at his new club, but Klate has high hopes for his former and current teammate. “Kermit is an exceptional talent,” says Klate.
“What is amazing about Kermit is this morning we were doing finishing and I missed a couple of chances and he told me what I was doing wrong!
“He is younger than me but I learn so much from him. His knowledge is amazing; he tells me the finer details of why I am hitting the ball over the crossbar, or not getting enough power, or when I am approaching the ball too slow or too fast.
“He is an exceptional talent, and one thing I want to harp on at him about is working hard. His talent is very scary and if he can put that in with hard work … he could compete for Player of the Season.”