South African footballing giants, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, both of Soweto, shrunk to pint-sized gladiators. With their looming Saturday night MTN-8 semi-final match at FNB Stadium, they failed to produce results in their respective ABSA Premiership matches last night. Chiefs drew 1-1 with Maritzburg United while Pirates were held to a 0-0 by Free State Stars.
Pirates huffed and puffed for extended periods of time against a spirited and counter-attacking Free State Stars that was content to keep the point they had before the match kicked off. It was expected, at least by me, knowing the coach’s school of thought. Sunday Marimo knew he could not match The Sea Robbers player for player that he worked on grinding a point. Marimo is not naive to have told the players they will beat the daylights out of Pirates, but he surely told them that sticking to a certain plan will give them a draw, which came. There is no better way to gain trust and confidence of your players than a realistic prophecy.
Chiefs on their part were out of sorts at the Harry Gwala Stadium. Zimbabwean firebrand striker, Knowledge Musona after scoring in Liberia for his country, fluffed a few chances with strike-mate Mandla Masango and Simphiwe Tshabalala, but came to score in the first half. The clear thing about the match was that ‘Abafana bokuthula noxolo’ are specialists in firing blanks. United took heart of the fact and came out all guns blazing and crushed the posts and crossbars with chilling accuracy. Rudolf Bester was so unlucky by scoring a tap in to equalise after 75 minutes.
Given the generally poor display by both teams, it would be safe to predict a few goals separating the 2 teams on Saturday. One factor is the two best goalkeepers in the land. Bafana Bafana goalkeepers, Itumeleng Khune and Moeneeb Josephs are at their best and are fighting a real battle for the national jersey. In a scale of balances, Itumeleng is number one but he conceded a goal last night. This makes Chiefs more dangerous as he will not want to concede again. Josephs may feel he is better by his clean sheet. Pirates must provide enough cover for him to maintain the record.
Josephs has a few factors against him. There is one Knowledge Musona. This guys has no respect for goalkeepers. The support from striking partner, Masango and the midfield industry of Tshabalala, Yende and Refiloe Letsholonyane. On paper, they are any coach’s dream. They should be able to dismantle any barriers ahead of them. Then there is the fact that he is Khune’s number 2. That gets spiced up bu the fact that he has to prove he can be better than the number 1. That usually back-fires. Generally, the Pirates shot-stopper must know that Amakhosi will hit the posts and cross bars several times and then the net once or twice.
The goalkeeping department from Naturena has its own worries to deal with. There is this guy, Happy Jele. He will be out with the support of the Pirates new broom, Diane Klate, and the fastest player in the league, Tlou Segolela. The General showed a few trademark touches when he came on as a sub against Niger at Mbombela as well as against Free State Stars. Teko may play badly against anyone, but against Chiefs, he is chillies. For his part, he has not played 90 minutes in the last 2 matches he was involved in. He will be like a man on Viagra on Saturday.
For a record, derbies usually do not depend on form books. Self-motivation of players to claim the bragging rights of Soweto is mandatory. Tactics counts for nothing. The Happy People have to learn to win a cup. They have been carelessly arrogant in their deals, wanting coaches who win in style after firing Gordon Ingersund and Roy Barretto after both coaches won Championships. The Glamour Boys have been notoriously naive, changing coaches like napkins. For this reason, they have been operating like a thermostat, blowing hot and cold.
Finally, it will be left on who drank more aphrodisiac as we know that Amakhosi score goals as we saw last night and Amabhakaniya don’t. At the current rate, Chiefs will beat Pirates by a goal to nil, and I will hate it.