It is Soweto time as South African football’s most bitter rivals, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates lock horns in the quarterfinals of the Telkom Knockout at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday, November 2.
Typically, there is never a shortage of opinion when these Soweto giants meet. Ask anyone, even none soccer fans, who they think will win and the responses are sure to be as diverse as the colours of the two sides’ playing kit. It is, perhaps, best to get an understanding of this grandest of local football matches from men who have been previously involved.
Our soccer writer Minenhle Mkhize was at the match venue this week for the pre-match conference and facilitated a fascinating if somewhat heated chat between former Pirates captain Lucky Lekgwathi and erstwhile Amakhosi defender Siphiwe Mkhonza. Ex-Buccaneers striker Phumudzo Manendze who is the Telkom Knockout ambassador joined in on the conversation.
Minenhle Mkhize (MM): Gents thank you for your time. Let’s get right into it. You’ve been involved in this blockbuster of a match. Pirates have had a turbulent start to the season while Chiefs are oozing with confidence. But they always say form does not count when it comes to the derby. Do you guys concur?
Siphiwe Mkhonza (SM): Ja, Ja.. you see the derby…
Lucky Lekgwathi (LL) interjects: No, no. There is two of us here, so Pirates must start. You see, a derby is a different game. There's pride at stake. Right now Chiefs are doing well and Pirates are not. But most of the time the team that is not doing well is the one that wins the derby. Pirates are going in as underdogs. So for me, this game I give it to Pirates.SM: No Chiefs are the underdogs and I will tell you why. Chiefs last beat Pirates in 2014. Yes they are on form but if they lose on Saturday it changes the whole thing. You beat Sundowns last week now you need to beat Pirates to sum up the whole chapter. Chiefs are the underdogs, I don’t care what people say. The derby is different, the environment, the feeling and the desire to win the bragging rights.
LL: Underdogs but at the same time under pressure. They must beat Pirates whom they’ve not beaten in five years. So they need to do it.
MM: So it is a massive test for both coaches then, especially because the two clubs have not won silverware in a long time?
Phumudzo Manendze (PM): Obviously when you are coaching a massive team like Orlando Pirates and also Kaizer Chiefs, supporters are always expecting trophies. They are expecting results. And when you look at the two coaches, one is very experienced in Ernst Middendorp and Rulani (Mokoena) has just been given the opportunity to head the Orlando Pirates technical team. And I have got all the belief and trust in what Rulani can deliver, all he needs is time. As Africans we have a saying ku cala kube mnyama ka khuluma ku zo khanya (when is it dark, it is a sign that the sun is about to shine). And one thing I would say to the Pirates supporters and followers is “kumnyama kakhulu but …. Ku zo khanya on Saturday.”
SM: Uyo khanya kanjani nge Chiefs? (how can you shine at Chiefs’ expense?) Ngeke (never). U ngakhanya nga a manye amaclubs (You can shine via other clubs) like Highlands Park. Chill brother.
PM: sine candle be soloku likhanya for five years ku Kaizer Chiefs (We have a candle that has been burning bright for five years over Kaizer Chiefs)
SM: That’s fine but thina so khumbul’ isoasss ngo weekend (we are going to have our cleansing ceremony at the weekend). That five years of darkness, we are taking everything off at the weekend. And with a very nice 2-0 win.
MM: How is Happy Jele going to stop Khama Billiat in one on one situations?
LL: You know what, one thing you should know about Pirates is that they are not a one man team. Happy is a very experienced player. He has played against Khama Billiat before and he knows what to expect from him. And he will not be playing alone. So whether it is against Billiat or whoever, Happy will show he is a senior player, he is a derby contender who has proven himself over and over.
SM: He will do well against who? We are talking one V one here. Let us leave the group defending. Khama will win that battle the whole day.
LL: You know what, in the derby there is very rarely a case of one V one. There is always a cover because they know you cannot give the opposition a chance of one V one.
MM: In terms of Chiefs, can they contain Tshegofatso Mabasa?
SM: They will contain Mabasa the whole day. He is on form and scoring but he is not your type of a difficult striker.
PM: Mabasa is deadly. You can forget about him for 89 minutes but he has that ability to use one moment to change the game. He will do exactly what he did against Highlands Park midweek. He has got a very good first touch, very physical and deadly in the box. Cardoso and Mathoho couldn't deal with Kermit Erasmus on aerial balls and we all know that Kermit is short. They will struggle against the big animal, Mabasa.
SM: But Kermit is a mobile striker, very mobile and unpredictable. Chiefs won't struggle with Mabasa. If he was unpredictable and skilful, we'd be talking a different story. He is easy to deal with because he is a stagnant striker. The likes of Cardoso are relaxed at training. Mathoho is high on confidence. He is back in the national team.
LL: I am happy that Chiefs are still playing with the same central defence pairing that we beat them. So history is going to repeat itself. And the same two Zambians that we beat them with here at Moses Mabhida Stadium will be there and we will beat them again in the same competition. KZN is our second home. This where I won most of my trophies. This is the lucky charm stadium of Pirates.
SM: No, no, Lucky is lying. They are tenants here. They live in the back room. This is Chiefs' second home. We might have lost against TS Galaxy in the Nedbank Cup final but it was a wake up call for us because we were too comfortable. This is our home. This our grandmother's house. The stokvel of Pirates is over now. Last week, we defeated the top team in the country Sundowns and I want to close the chapter and close the Bible by beating Pirates.
PM: Mkhonza is saying they will win based on what? They mustn't come here with the mentality that they won against Sundowns. It is up to you to decide if you go with history or form. If you go with form, you will choose Chiefs. But if you go with history, it will be Pirates who have not won in five years.
SM: I am saying we are going to have a cleansing ceremony on Saturday.
PM: I am an African. When it is dark, it is a sign the light is coming. The candle will remain bright for Orlando Pirates.