JOHANNESBURG - The Premiership trophy, normally a prop in Soweto Derby press conferences with Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates fighting only for pride in the last two seasons, shone a little brighter as the backdrop to Wednesday's conference.
It was fitting that Pirates coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic and Happy Jele were closer to the trophy than Chiefs' Ramahlwe Mphahlele and his coach Steve Komphela. The Buccaneers are a point ahead of Amakhosi.
But the big story of this derby is that for the first time in a long time both teams are title contenders - Pirates trail log-leaders Mamelodi Sundowns by four points and Chiefs five.
Sredojevic and Komphela are searching for their first league derby win which would be made sweeter by giving them an edge in the title race.
“One is tempted to say that could it be that whoever wins the match on Saturday will go on to challenge for the championship? Possible! If you check the remaining matches of the three teams (Sundowns, Pirates and Chiefs) there are teams who have to play against all these three teams,” Komphela said.
“You have four teams like that. It tells you how tight it is. From that perspective, it starts to help you how to plan for this match and what could happen when those teams meet the other two.”
Komphela leads Amakhosi for the eighth time in a Soweto Derby while Sredojevic will be in charge of only his third. Komphela has a slight edge in terms of experience but the Serbian has worked in more matches of this nature than Komphela.
Sredojevic was involved in Uganda’s biggest derby between SC Villa and Express, the biggest derby in Ethiopia between Saint George and Ethiopia Coffee, and the biggest derby in Tanzania, Young Africans versus Simba.
“There is one simple rule to prepare for matches of this magnitude: Never do anything different in your preparations,” Sredojevic said. “This is the rule. We are making things normal as much as possible.
"With regards to this being called a boring derby, you need to know that this is like two armies clashing. The desire of one army stops the other army from expressing themselves as best as they possibly can.
"What I mean is that we are coming with an intention to win by making players mentally stronger. We really try. One moment of brilliance is likely to decide the game. We shall do everything possible to make sure it goes our way.”
The Buccaneers go into the match with more confidence having come from behind to beat Chippa United 4-2 in an entertaining match in Port Elizabeth.
Amakhosi, on the other hand, drew with Bloemfontein Celtic, failing to make up ground on Sundowns, who had slipped up earlier in the day.