There is no doubt that the Soweto derby headlines this weekend’s fixtures in South African football. Orlando Pirates host Kaizer Chiefs in a DSTV Premiership match at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday afternoon. It will be the third time the two Soweto giants clash this season.
A Soweto derby without spectators is something that one could not have ever imagined. The Orlando Pirates-Kaizer Chiefs fixture is known for drawing huge crowds. Everything would literally come to a standstill when the two sides clash. Business in the townships would be booming as those who couldn’t make it to the stadium, would rush to their nearest tarvern to watch the match while sharing and enjoying some cold beverages.
However, COVID-19 happened and we are in what is now referred to as a new normal. The stands will be empty, and so will the viewing areas, including taverns, because the sale of alcohol is still prohibited, and so is gatherings of huge crowds. Orlando Pirates have the bragging rights over their rivals this season. In the two-legged MTN-8 semi-final, the Buccaneers won 5-0 on aggregate following a 3-0 victory in the first leg at the Orlando Stadium and winning by two unanswered goals in the reverse fixture at the FNB Stadium.
Amakhosi did not have the best of starts in their campaign and went seven matches without a win in the Premiership. However, it seems like they have since turned the corner, having won three matches in a row earlier this month. They played to a draw in their last two encounters. Kaizer Chiefs coach, Gavin Hunt, says even though the situation doesn’t allow the 12th man in the stands, they have to gear up for action.
“It’s something that is very very difficult because of the situation to play but we will brace it and face it on Saturday. At least we’ve got an extra day now which we haven’t had for a couple of weeks now, two days we play.”
Pirates started the season on a high note and ended up clinching the MTN-8 trophy, beating Bloemfontein Celtic in the final. They have been one of the early title contenders with a number of promising results. However, of late, they have been found wanting and are struggling to kill off matches. As a result, they have won only five of their 14 league matches and played to a draw on seven occasions, with two losses under their name.
Pirates are 5th on the standings with 22 points, while Chiefs are in 7th place with 18 points from their 14 matches. Pirates coach, Josef Zinnbauer, is aware that a Soweto derby is a different ball game altogether. He says the past counts for nothing going into this fixture on Saturday.
“The focus is now completely on the derby. Nothing can change what is in the past, we have to focus now on what is forward, in the next game and it is Kaizer Chiefs. We know it’s a special game, it’s not a normal league game. We have to focus completely on this. It is important for us, which players are available in terms of conditioning, freshness. We have players who at the moment, not 100 percent available.”
In other matches on Saturday, Supersport United are at home against Swallows FC, Golden Arrows host Maritzburg United in a KZN derby, Bloemfontein Celtic take on Tshakuma Tsha Madzivhandila and TS Galaxy travel to Black Leopards. On Sunday, Baroka FC will be at home against Cape Town City, while Chippa United will be keen to upset log leaders, Mamelodi Sundowns, in Pretoria.