Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates set for season-defining Soweto derby

Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro. Picture: Timothy Bernard / Independent Media

Orlando Pirates coach Jose Riveiro. Picture: Timothy Bernard / Independent Media

Published Mar 3, 2024


The Soweto derby remains the biggest sporting event in the country, and such is the significance of Saturday’s clash that it could make or break the season for the teams.

Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs are expected to challenge for the DStv Premiership title season after season but once again they’ve been below par this term.

Pirates somewhat deserves a ‘get-out-of-jail card’ compared to Chiefs, considering that they have already won the MTN8 and are in the Nedbank Cup last 16.

And that’s probably why defending the Nedbank Cup and finishing second in the league will be an ‘okay season’ for them and will buy coach Jose Riveiro some time.

But Pirates cannot sit back, hope and pray that they’ll repeat the heroics of last season. They must act.

That means they must win all the remaining 12 matches, starting with yesterday’s match against Polokwane City in Polokwane.

That match will be followed by the midweek clash at home to Cape Town Spurs before the big one: Saturday’s Soweto derby against Chiefs.

It is usually said that form counts for nothing going into the derby, but Pirates will wear the favourites’ tag on paper, given their recent run of form.

They have won the last two derbies in all competitions, while they are a complete team compared to Chiefs who have had a turbulent campaign. The recent hijacking incident of goalkeeper Melusi Buthelezi, who has since been found and is well, last Friday was an unfortunate incident for everyone at the club.

Pirates have a freshly rejuvenated No 1 in Sipho Chaine, the former Bloemfontein Celtic No 1 having started both Pirates’ games since the restart.

But, it would be wrong to say Chaine will be the man to look at in goals in the derby compared to his opposite number, Bruce Bvuma.

Bvuma has had an impressive run of form in recent months, and has kept five clean sheets in the last six games, having conceded against Sekhukhune United.

But Chaine holds the advantage of shining when he’s being tested as he has players who can make inroads into the final third compared to Chiefs.

Amakhosi have been sound in defence, but their striking contingency hasn’t been at its best. They have failed to score in their last two games in all competitions.

That different run of form up front has been the difference. Pirates won 6-0 against Crystal Lake in the Nedbank Cup last 32, while Chiefs lost 5-4 on penalties to Milford.

It’s as if the departure of Thembinkosi Lorch in January was a blessing in disguise for Pirates as players seem to be playing with more freedom going forward.

Kudos should also go to the Afcon experience. Evidence Makgopa has gained experience from the tournament and his goal against Polokwane City yesterday will surely buoy his confidence further.

For Chiefs, there have been few to no positives to write home about in the offensive unit. They are playing like a team that was only assembled yesterday. Ashley du Preez continues to miss clear-cut chances with every passing game, irking fans who have questioned why the team doesn’t bring in new players.

Interim coach Cavin Johnson has responded to that question, saying that it’s his job to make the players better, including turning the strikers into sharpshooters.

But has he? For the discerning supporters, it’s a big no! Chiefs didn’t only miss clear-cut chances against Royal AM and Milford, but a penalty as well. The loss to minnows Milford subjected them to another barren season – now nine seasons in a row – but they can save their season by finishing in the top three on the log.

That is easier said than done, of course. They’ll have to pick up as many points going forward, starting with yesterday’s game at home against Moroka Swallows.

And thereafter, they must ensure that they beat the struggling Golden Arrows away midweek before topping off the week against their bitter rivals at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.