Meanwhile, even fewer pundits could have guessed that the Buccaneers would be sitting in a purgatory that involved their coach comparing the team to a Mona Lisa, but with results more resembling a Jackson Pollock, and not in a good way.
Rulani Mokwena talks a good game, but his team are not playing one, however many songs of artistic praise he tries to wrap around them. Ernst Middendorp, meanwhile, is enjoying a chilled-out revival as a man who used to be the king of the temper-tantrum and win very little, but who has now mellowed out and perhaps discovered the key to finally grabbing an elusive Premiership crown.
Form in the derby tends to go out of the window, and Pirates ran Chiefs mighty close in the Telkom Knockout semifinals last weekend, even with only ten men. There are dangermen on both sides who could crack Saturday’s derby wide open, and here at Phakaaathi we look at two from each team who could swing the most heated game in South African football.
Random Serbian striker joins Kaizer Chiefs and is destined to become another on the scrapheap of Amakhosi goal-grabbers who haven’t grabbed at all. Right? Wrong. So wrong. Nurkovic almost scored a quite magnificent goal in midweek against Chippa United, bringing the ball down and lifting a shot onto the crossbar that reminded one of Denis Bergkamp, or Dimitar Berbatov. This 27 year-old has been a masterstroke of the chequebook thus far from whoever at Kaizer Chiefs signs players. At first, it was his hold up play for others that shone through, but of late he has shown goalscoring prowess too, notably in his double against Mamelodi Sundowns that put Chiefs’ title aspirations up in neon.
Khama Billiat wanted to go back to Mamelodi Sundowns in the off-season, everyone knows this, just like everyone knows Brexit is a shit idea, and that the Springboks’ World Cup triumph, while wonderful, won’t solve South Africa’s crime problem or fix the economy. And for a while, it looked like Billiat this season might be a massive sulky-pants, who didn’t get his way. Slowly but surely, however, the Zimbabwean is starting to show Chiefs fans exactly what made him such a success in the colours of Masandawana. If Billiat fires, he is the best attacking player in South Africa, and if he destroys Pirates on Saturday, even the most grudge-holding Chiefs fan will surely embrace him.
Thembinkosi Lorch hit the stratosphere last season, excelling for Orlando Pirates, walking away with a thoroughly deserved PSL Footballer of the Season Award, netting that goal for Bafana Bafana, while there was some interest that came in from France for his services. That didn’t materialise into a signing, however, and it has been a lukewarm start to the season for Lorch, whether down to frustration at not getting his move, or the departure of Milutin Sredojevic, and the general malaise surrounding Pirates right now. This is, however, a man capable of producing the extraordinary on his day, and a man who should be well-rested after serving a suspension in the midweek draw with Maritzburg United, yet another game in which Pirates drew a blank.
Justin Shonga has spent a decent part of this season sitting in the stands looking on, apparently out of favour with Rulani Mokwena, a little bizarre as Pirates have battled to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo in front of goal, with apologies for the crudity of such a remark to the Pirates striking coach. To be fair to Mokwena, Shonga hasn’t scored since returning to the Pirates team after the October international break, but he did come within inches of changing that in midweek against Maritzburg, his late effort bouncing off the crossbar and just dropping the wrong side, for Pirates, of the line. Could the Zambian’s luck change against Chiefs?