JOHANNESBURG - Very seldom does a player from either Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates admit that the Soweto Derby between the two sides lacks the spark that fans crave.
In fact, these very stars of the biggest fixture in the Absa Premiership calendar have a list full of reasons why this is. Even the coaches have made some compelling arguments.
But Ramahlwe Mphahlele took a different direction this week.
“I am not saying we should disrespect tactics, but lets try and have a go at each other,” the Chiefs defender said.
“I just feel we are too cautious as players. We have the chairman (Kaizer Motaung) come in and tell us about the history of the derby every time and I just feel the players then decide they don’t want to lose the game,” Mphahlele, now in his second season with Amakhosi, added.
“We shouldn’t go into the game with that mentality. We need to go in and win the game. If we don’t have that, we end up playing it safe.
"I am urging my teammates and Pirates players - let us go out there and attack each other. Let’s make it exciting, have a go at each other. Go out and exert yourself - if there are no goals then so be it, you can’t do anything about that. What is important is that we are not cautious about the game.
"If Pirates score first, then we have to go in and score as well.”
The last time Chiefs and Pirates faced off in October, that league match ended in a goalless draw, leaving over 75 000 supporters disgruntled that they witnessed a highly tactical game, but without either of the two teams leaving it all out on the pitch.
Perhaps with the stakes a lot higher this time around - the Buccaneers second on the log, Chiefs third and both chasing log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns with just eight games remaining - the game could be more open.
“It is important the teams behind Sundowns keep chasing,” said Mphahlele.
“You never know when they are going to drop points. If they don’t then we will take our hats off to them and say they are good because they won the games that mattered in the race.”
The league leaders have a tough programme from this month onwards until the end of the season as they begin their CAF Champions League journey, their matches there sandwiched in between their domestic fixtures.
“Those are the things that make the players tired. It drains you to sit on a flight for eight or nine hours and then come back to play a very stressful game. But our job at Chiefs is to focus on us. We can say Sundowns are in the Champions League, but if we don’t win our games then there’s no catching them.”
He said Amakhosi would need experienced players to guide the rest of the squad for the eight games that will determine who wins the title and also coach Steve Komphela’s future.
“You need quality, players who know how to deal with that situation,” said Mphahlele. “It’s not easy. It’s not like you are playing the first league game. You need players who can take the stress.
This weekend is going to be stressful. Pirates are going to come at us, the fans are going to start shouting, but you need to be resilient and focus on the job at hand.”