JOHANNESBURG – One coach bamboozled journalists with his "rebuilding" talk, while the other, battling from a mild cold, fielded a question on whether he thought this afternoon’s Soweto Derby would be his last.
Orlando Pirates’ Milutin “Micho" Sredojevic heads into this possible PSL title decider quite calm, or at least that’s the impression he gave when he said he was not under pressure to win anything just yet – his personal targets being to gain entry into continental football by finishing in the top three or winning the Nedbank Cup.
His counterpart Steve Komphela has no such luxury – this derby is a "must win".
“There is no ground to lose. We have to hold on to it and keep tight. We need an advantage from a point’s perspective. There is no derby where I was involved and there were these stakes. You don’t lose sight of your primary objective,” said the Chiefs coach, in the final few months of his three-year contract.
Komphela has never won a derby, neither has Sredojevic, who is in his second spell at Pirates.
They both need a victory to keep up with log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns. A draw, as former Bafana Bafana defender Fabian McCarthy put it, would be like handing over the championship to the Brazilians.
“We feel responsible to give our best. This is a special derby," added Sredojevic.
“This game is more than three points mentally. It’s possible to not win, but get the league. But it will be much harder that way. It will be made easier if you win a game of this magnitude.”
The Buccaneers coach was in no way dismissing the stature of a club like Pirates by scoffing at suggestions that his mandates were immediate, but he said he was being pragmatic.
“Look, there are so many aspects in the game we are happy with,” he explained.
“We have started to play as the dominant team, one that keeps a highline in defence, one that attacks. Of course when you defend like this you are at a huge risk that you will be punished because of the space behind you.
“We need to improve that aspect and be much more offensive against reinforced defences – where we have to unlock with patience.”
Pirates, second on the log and trailing Sundowns by four points, have certainly looked a much-improved side in the second half of the season. Chiefs, however, have hardly looked convincing, although their defence is the best in the league.
Amakhosi are five points behind Sundowns.
Sredojevic has challenged his players to prove to him they have finally found their scoring boots by sticking the ball past Chiefs and Bafana Bafana first choice Itumeleng Khune this afternoon.
“We have used so many training aspects,” the Bucs coach said.
“How to score on the smallest or biggest goal posts against two, three goalkeepers in training - so that we are able to do so against one of the best goalkeepers in African football, Khune. This is what we are looking at.
“If we are really so good, lets try against the best defence, a side that has conceded 12 goals (in 22 matches).”