Derby Time: Much more at stake for Soweto giants

Is there any game bigger than the Soweto Derby in Africa? There might be, but none is as internationally-celebrated.

Pirates fans.
Pirates fans.

Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates march onto Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday night for what promises to be an explosive MTN8 Cup final match.

Both sides go into the match on the back of an explosive league form that saw them come off the weekend with the full set of points from their Absa Premiership matches. Pirates – placed third on the 16-team log, beat Bidvest Wits 1-0, while their rivals emerged 2-1 winners over Polokwane City to maintain their seven-point lead over second-placed Ajax Cape Town.

All that has prepared soccer lovers for a possible thriller at the weekend’s winner-takes-all cup final. The side that wins will walk away with the R8million cash prize, while all the other also-rans will get a R800,000 consolation prize. Chiefs – with national team players Kingstone Nkhatha, Ovidy Karuru, Willard Katsande and Matthew Rusike in their ranks, are Zimbabweans’ favourites, but for their black and white kit, Pirates also enjoy the support of those Highlanders supporters who believe in colour and unofficial twinning agreements.

Notwithstanding the fact that derbies have no respect for the form book, Chiefs walk into this game both mentally and technically better placed to steal the show. The Amakhosi have won all their six league games thus far. Their coach, Stuart Baxter and winger Mandla Masango were last week crowned best coach and player for August. Baxter’s side, who remain South Africa’s most successful side in knockout competitions, are also playing a game that is by far the best in the league so far this season.

Statistically, the two sides have met 29 times, with Chiefs winning nine of those games, 13 of which were drawn and that also puts them on an even-keel going into Saturday’s match. Pirates have had more MTN8 Cup triumphs over the Amakhosi, with two to their perennial rivals’ one since the competition was rolled out in 2008.

Baxter said at the weekend that his side would go into the cup final in the right frame of mind, following their rich vein of form so far. “We will go there prepared and the best thing will be for us not to be carried away after this good league form,” said the Briton. “We will go there seeking to fight because only that will see us emerge the winners. We are playing another big club in a tight contest and that means we must not lose focus.”

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