The Soweto Derby was kind of an anticlimax after the World Cup final last weekend. It was always going to be difficult to eclipse the Springboks winning the World Cup. It sort of like having breakfast with your 22-year old girlfriend in the morning then a few hours later going grocery shopping at Pick n Pay with your wife.
This weekend the Soweto Derby doesn’t have those pesky Makhwaphenis to contend with, they have the Saturday all to themselves.
Every encounter between two of South Africa’s biggest clubs comes with a new set of questions. Who will replace Happy Jele? Will referees keep their wits about them? If Pirates lose, what nonsensical excuse will Rhulani Mokwena have after the game? The answers to these and a couple more questions will give us an idea of what to expect on Saturday afternoon.
Who will replace Happy Jele?
A Maritzburg United attacker found himself one-v-one against Happy Jele a few meters away from the Orlando Pirates 18-yard box. He figured ‘this is Happy Jele, a central defender who pretty slow, let me try my luck’ He pushed the ball two yards behind the Pirates captain and proceed to glide past him. Jele realizing ‘oh shit, this guy is actually quick’ Thought to himself ‘Let me lunge, with both feet of the ground, for a ball I’m 99.8% sure I’m not going to get.‘ He brought the player down and was walking to the dressing room before the referee reached for his pocket for the second yellow.
Even when Orlando Pirates haven’t been playing well this season, their captain Happy Jele’s performances have stood out. Apart from that brain fart, he has been their best center back. Coach Rhulani Mokwena is going to be hard-pressed to find a replacement in his current squad. Justice Chabalala is a good footballer but sometimes loses concentration. Alfred Ndengane hasn’t played much this season under Rhulani but he may be needed over the weekend. Kaizer Chiefs’ frontline of Leonardo Castro and Samir Nurković are strong and good in the air. We’ll see if Jele’s replacement will keep them in check.
Does Rhulani set his team up conservatively?
Rhulani Mokwena loves playing attacking football but a coach needs to adapt. Sometimes you need to respect your opponents. Chiefs are a team that is red hot and are clicking on all cylinders. They are at their best on the transition, you will be playing into their hands when piling bodies forward.
Mokwena is coaching for a full-time head coaching job. It would be wise for him not to lose a derby game. Not many coaches last after losing to their arch-rivals.
Does ‘throw the form book out the window in Soweto Derby’ apply?
The old football cliche of ‘throwing the form book out the window’ in derby games is the second dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, the first being you should not be allowed to tase your kids when they misbehave. Orlando Pirates have been the better team in the past couple of years and the results have shown their superiority. Kaizer Chiefs are favorites and for good reason.
Will Kaizer Chiefs be the fresher team?
Kaizer Chiefs rested eight first-team players is their mid-week win against Chippa United. Having the energy to last 90 minutes in an intense game like derby is important. How big or a role will fatigue play in the closing minutes of the game?
How big of a part will the referees play?
Referees have been a big topic of discussion for the past couple of weeks. There have been complaints about bad offside calls, shoddy red cards, and cases of assault. Where is Victor Gomez when you need him.
Both teams need a favorable result. Kaizer Chiefs to consolidate their place at the top of the Absa Premiership table, Orlando Pirates to put their season back on track. It would be a pity if the referee ruins the Soweto Derby with bad decisions.