Johannesburg – As a debutant, the derby can either make or break you.
But there’s a general feeling from some of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates' new personnel that they’ll grace the “game”, not the “occasion” when the Soweto giants clash at the Calabash.
After a quite busy transfer window for the two arch-rivals, either side will get a chance to give new personnel a taste of the biggest fixture in the country’s footballing calendar – especially after the two teams disappointing starts to the term.
Pirates and Chiefs are relatively sixth and seventh on the standings. They've failed to churn out a consistent run of form, losing or drawing matches that they should have won. That's why the Soweto derby tomorrow should offer some redemption
But perhaps all eyes will be on Keagan Dolly. After a four-year stint at French Ligue 1 side Montpellier, Dolly heeded the call to come back home, joining Chiefs. He’s seamlessly adapted, contributing with seven goals in 10 games so far.
However, the 28-year-old winger-cum-attacker knows that their game against Pirates will probably go down as one of the biggest ones he’ll play in the Chiefs’ jersey. And that’s why he’s eager to stick to all the right things he’s been doing so far.
And despite the derby set to be played behind closed doors, it hasn't entirely lost its significance – especially to players such as Dolly. Dolly has been a Chiefs supporter from a young age, watching a couple of derbies in a packed stadium.
“I’ve wanted to be part of a team like Chiefs," he said. "Growing up in Westbury, my father always took me to the stadium. He was a huge Chiefs supporter. Growing up I supported Chiefs. I was lucky to see the supporters go crazy."
He added: “I was lucky to see the likes of Jabu Pule, when he was on the ball and hear the supporters whistle. That game gave me the feeling of ‘I wanted to experience that’. I know it’s a big occasion, I need to be calm and do my best.”
Chiefs already met Pirates in a pre-season friendly, the Carling Black Label Cup. But that match, given that the respective starting line-ups were also voted for by the fans, was just a friendly, and Dolly didn’t take part.
However, even those who were part and parcel of that game know that Saturday’s match will serve as their first official derby. Pirates' duo Mandla Ncikazi and Bandile Shandu were on the bench as an assistant coach and a substitute.
“It was not an official match but I was here when the Carling Cup was played,” Ncikazi said. “I have a bit of experience. So the only thing that I have missed is the supporters. It’s not a normal fixture: you see from the training of the players.”
He continued: “It tells you that this is not a normal fixture. I am hoping that there’ll be no injuries in the match. I think everything that has happened in our team needs to stop. But we’ll control the controllable and prepare well as a team.”
Shandu added: “I think the build up to the game, alone, shows how big and important it is. There’ll be nerves. That will be normal but the coaches and teammates that I have are walking me through it. They are trying to make me understand.”