Johannesburg - The hype has been created and the sold-out signs are likely to go up, but Saturday’s clash between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates could be just another Soweto Derby – which means a tightly contested affair that sheds no light on who between these giants will stand a great chance of progressing to the MTN8 final.
Granted, only the September 24 second leg – not Saturday’s first clash (FNB Stadium, 3pm) – can decide the winner, but expectations of a thrill-a-minute border on misplaced optimism given the recent history of this fixture, not least in cup meetings.
When they last clashed in the MTN8 two years ago, a solitary extra-time goal settled the affair and, even the two legs of the semi-finals in the preceding year produced just three goals.
Pirates triumphed on those two occasions, and on Saturday they will bid to bring an end to a dismal run of form in domestic competitions, while Chiefs will attempt to take some advantage into their away leg at Orlando in four weeks’ time.
Three players – Lucky Lekgwathi, Daine Klate and Reneilwe Letsholonyane – attended Thursday’s press briefing at the match venue and none could promise a free-flowing game, albeit all offered reasons why South Africa’s biggest game is often no more than an overhyped eyesore, with little entertainment forthcoming.
“I’ve heard people saying the Derby is boring, but the truth is we always go there to try and perform for our supporters,” said Lekgwathi, the Pirates captain. “People say there are too many draws, 1-1, 0-0. But the fact is both these teams are strong, quality sides.
“Look at Chiefs, they have international players; the goalkeeper (Itumeleng Khune) and the defence play for the national team. So it’s difficult to break them down. With us, too, it’s not easy to score against us. We are tough to beat. But it’s not like we go there to play for a draw. It’s a question of the strength of both sides.”
Lekgwathi would not even be pushed into making a prediction about the outcome of Saturday’s match, saying it is too close to call, but his teammate Klate gave it a go. “I think we’ll want to repeat the Zamalek scoreline (Pirates hammered the Egypt club 4-1 in last week’s Champions League clash).”
That Klate himself burst into laughter after making that statement, was an indication that he meant it only in jest, the Pirates midfielder conceding moments later that the fact there’s a second leg would mean a cautious approach is a requirement for Saturday.
His opposite number, Letsholonyane, also offered a more realistic prediction. “If we win 1-0 we would have done well. But if it’s a draw there’s always the second leg to rectify our mistakes,” the Chiefs midfielder said.
While Bucs did beat Amakhosi en route to winning the MTN8 in 2010 and 2011, it is Stuart Baxter’s team who take with them some domestic form into on Saturday’s match.
Amakhosi easily swept past the University of Pretoria in the quarter-finals, whereas Pirates struggled to a penalty shoot-out victory over SuperSport United, which illustrated their domestic travails that date back to the dying stages of the previous campaign.
Lekgwathi, though, reckons his men will be buoyed by their Champions League run, which has seen them flatten the continent’s greatest sides in Al-Ahly and Zamalek. “We scored plenty of goals against those teams. I trust that our attackers will deliver again (on Saturday),” the veteran defender said.
Letsholonyane, meanwhile, stated Chiefs could not be bothered about having lost to their rivals in this competition in successive years. “We make our plans according to the immediate previous game. We analyse that particular game and look at what we need to correct going into the next game. We can’t look as far back as two seasons ago. That has no relevance,” the midfielder said.