Johannesburg – Kaizer Chiefs captain Itumeleng Khune on Thursday warned Orlando Pirates not to consider Amakhosi underdogs going into Saturday’s Soweto Derby, despite the Buccaneers’s rich vein of form in the CAF Champions League and Telkom Knockout.
Pirates go into the Soweto derby as Champions League finalists for the first time since 1995 after beating Esperance on away goals last weekend, and in the eyes of some are the favourites following the emphatic 4-0 victory over Golden Arrows in the Knockout on Wednesday.
Chiefs, on the other hand, snuck into the Knockout semis via a penalty shoot-out against Free State Stars, a dull display which was characterised by a serious lack of composure in front of goal. Chiefs however, are not reading much into Pirates’ recent form, Khune says.
“I wouldn’t say we are underdogs. Pirates deserve respect and we would like to congratulate them on reaching the Champions League final. The only disadvantage for them is that they have played more games without much rest going into this game while we have had more rest,” the 26 year old shot stopper said.
“But I don’t think that will play a role. The hunger from both teams will play a role. We want it most because we are playing at home.
“Wherever we go everyone is talking about Pirates, but to be honest, we are focused on our own preparations.
“We have been doing well and people tend to forget that. It’s just that we did not start the season so well like the last time.
“Come Saturday, you will see a completely different Kaizer Chiefsside.”
Khune is still reeling from the MTN8 semi-final loss to the Buccaneers, who won the two-legged clash 2-1 to progress to the final they eventually lost to Platinum Stars on penalties.
“We made a mistake in the MTN8 by losing at home in the first leg semifinal,” Khune laments, “and when we went to play away from home, we could only manage a draw. They are the talk of the town because of those results.
“But this will be a different ball game.”
The Bafana Bafana skipper is antipating an intriguing battle between him and in-form Pirates striker Lennox Bacela, who bagged a hat-trick against Arrows in midweek. Bacela beat Khune from the spot in the MTN8 second leg semi in Orlando and Khune is determined to keep him out this time round.
“He is doing well. He’s mandate is to score and mine is to keep the balls from going into the back of the net. We just have to do our jobs and we will see who comes out tops. But at the end of the day it’s about the team winning. It’s not only about the two players. It will be unfair for the others players.”
Khune admits Amakhosi have lacked composure in front of goal recently, but says it’s something they have been working on.
“It’s lack of composure and a lack of confidence, but at least we are winning our matches. The decisions we have made in front of goal have played a role in us not scoring as many goals as last season. But we still have a long season ahead of us and we will improve.”
Meanwhile, stand-in Pirates captain Happy Jele is looking forward to leading the side for the first time in a Soweto derby. Jele has worn the armband in the Champions League against the likes of TP Mazembe and more recently Esperance.
“This is the first time I will captain the team in the derby. It’s a big challenge for me. I’ve been under pressure in the Champions League, but the coach (Roger de Sa) told me to relax. I believe it will go well,” the right back said.