The fine starts made to 2018 by both the Buccaneers and Amakhosi gives hope that the two Soweto giants will put on a spectacle on the field at the FNB Stadium the show there as almost always is off it, as the fans pack in to South Africa’s home of football to watch their heroes in action.
There is certainly every reason for Pirates and Chiefs to both go all out for the three points on Saturday, with eight games to go and still plenty work to be done to catch Mamelodi Sundowns at the top of the table. Pirates currently trail Masandawana by four points, and Chiefs by five, with the pressure on both to win set to be even higher if Sundowns can win at AmaZulu on Friday.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane has already basically predicted a derby draw (see Page 10), which partly has to be mind games from the Brazilians mentor, but which is also a fair prediction based on the statistics. The derby’s problem in recent years has been that for all the hype surrounding it, it has too often produced a soporific encounter, with coaches seemingly more afraid to lose than willing to go for the victory.
Five of the last six Premiership meetings between Chiefs and Pirates have ended in draws, with three of those goalless. Pirates’ encounters with Sundowns have produced far more entertainment, as has the Tshwane derby between Masandawana and SuperSport United.
And yet, the situation on Saturday really does demand that Milutin Sredojevic and Steve Komphela adopt a gung-ho approach, which could just finally fire up the derby.
Pirates have certainly been in fine attacking form, with the likes of Justin Shonga and Luvuyo Memela sparking their title charge in 2018. The Buccaneers have scored two goals or more in five of the seven league games they have played this year.
Chiefs have been far less prolific, relying more on a water-tight defence than a free-flowing attack, though Ryan Moon has been in fine form, his goals giving their title push impetus.
Komphela is a cautious coach by nature, but one feels he really needs to adopt a more offensive game-plan if Chiefs are going to be genuine title contenders and not just tease their fans until the end of the season.
The goalless draw with Bloemfontein Celtic on Saturday was a case in point, a chance to gain ground on Sundowns squandered in a tepid performance.
Pirates, on the other hand, took their chance to grab second place with some fine attacking football at Chippa United, showing a commendable never-say-die spirit even when Chippa pulled it back to 2-2 in Port Elizabeth.
Sredojevic, ably assisted by former Sundowns second-in-command Rulani Mokwena, has slowly built an excellent Pirates side this season, and at this stage they look like the side better primed to actually challenge Sundowns.
Pirates have already proved their mettle with a splendid win at Sundowns on January 13 and my feeling is they could just have the edge in Saturday’s Soweto derby.
Would you like to place a soccer bet? Click here to get started in 3 easy steps.