Johannesburg – Oupa Manyisa will take to the field in Saturday’s Soweto Derby with fond memories of the last time Orlando Pirates faced Kaizer Chiefs in the MTN8.
The 2011 MTN8 final was drifting towards a penalty shoot-out at FNB Stadium when Manyisa’s long-range extra-time effort drew a rare error from Itumeleng Khune and nestled in the back of the net.
“It is a good memory, good because we won the trophy, that is the most important thing,” said Manyisa.
That victory helped to propel the Buccaneers towards a second successive domestic treble, but last season it was the Amakhosi who took over as Soweto’s prize-grabbers, bringing home the league and cup double, while Pirates’ trophy cabinet was bare.
Manyisa denies that last season’s change in fortune gives Pirates extra motivation for Saturday, and the first leg of this year’s MTN8 semi-final (FNB Stadium, kick-off 3pm).
“We just have to work harder than last season, that will improve our chances of winning,” said the 25-year-old midfielder bluntly.
Pirates have made a mixed start to the new season, excelling in continental competition, where they have thumped Al Ahly and Zamalek en route to topping their African Champions League group. Domestically, however, they have been rather more shaky, losing their opening league game to AmaZulu and scraping past SuperSport United on penalties in the MTN8 quarter-final.
“The difference is that in Africa we are playing teams who don’t know how we play, and in the (domestic) league we are playing teams who know how we play and function,” was Manyisa’s assessment.
Chiefs and Pirates should certainly have plenty of familiarity with each other’s game, and have already met this domestic pre-season in the Carling Black Label Cup, Chiefs winning 1-0.
Yet no matter how many times these two sides face off, it is always the fixture that raises a nation’s excitement. And it is no different for the players.
“It is something special, there is no friendly between Chiefs and Pirates,” said Manyisa. “It is about supporters’ bragging rights. Fans stop you and tell you they want to be the ones celebrating this weekend, and you can’t run away from that.”
Manyisa, as usual, has been ever-present in the Bucs midfield this season, usually alongside his old ally Andile Jali. Jali went off injured early in Pirates’ 4-1 thrashing of Zamalek last weekend, and Pirates face a nervous wait to see if he is fit for Saturday’s derby. If not, Lehlohonolo Masalesa, who was excellent against Zamalek, will probably play, and Manyisa is not bothered who he plays with.
“I am comfortable playing alongside anyone, you can’t always say who will play, everyone chosen on Saturday has to put in an effort.”
This being a first leg, with the second leg to be played exactly a month later, it is unlikely much will be decided by Saturday’s game. The last time these two sides met in an MTN8 semi-final, it was a tight affair in 2010, with a goalless first leg followed by a 1-1 draw in the second leg, the Buccaneers sneaking through on the away goals rule.
Chiefs, with their domestic success under Stuart Baxter, have to be slight favourites this time around, but the likelihood is it will be another tight Soweto derby affair.