/ 12 February 2009

Birds, Bucs gear up for Soweto derby

Moroka Swallows will take a psychological advantage into their Soweto derby against arch rivals Orlando Pirates at Rustenburg’s Olympia Park on Sunday, claims Birds assistant coach Zeca Marques.

Kick-off is at 3.30pm.

The Birds defeated the other member of the Soweto ”Big Three”, Kaizer Chiefs, 2-1 at the same venue last weekend. What is more significant, however, is Birds used the stadium as a home venue and have only lost once there this season.

Explained Marques: ”We were beaten earlier this season 3-0 by Ajax Cape Town, but Olympia Park has been a happy hunting ground for us and we are determined for that to continue when we play Pirates.”

But Pirates spokesperson Mickey Modisane points out that Bucs have a bigger edge. He explained: ”We beat Swallows back-to-back in the cup and league in the first round of the season, so that will give us a mental boost. We have no problem with the venue, in fact, we have an added advantage of outnumbering Swallows fans. We expect our supporters to come in large numbers and [that] will be a huge motivating factor for our players.”

Pirates will be without suspended striker Katlego Mashego and two injured midfielders, Lebogang Mothibantwa and left wing Bennett Chenene.

But the good news is central defender Lucas Thwala returns from suspension to beef up the suspect defence. Also on the mend is midfielder Benson Mhlongo, who has recovered and faces a late fitness test. Mhlongo’s return would be a major boost as he anchors the midfield. Should he be fit he would replace Mothibantwa.

Also back in full training is budding midfield star Thulasizwe Mbuyane, who has been out of action for more than three months after undergoing an operation on his toe.

The likes of Josephy Kamwendo and Thembile Kanono are in line to replace Chenene, while either veteran Zimbabwean Gilbert Mushangazhike or Adriano Pires could take Mashego’s place alongside Siphelele Mthembu in attack.

Bucs coach Ruud Krol has been busy this week identifying mistakes in the Pirates defence that have cost them goals and points. Mistakes from ”butterfingers” reserve keeper Senzo Meyiwa and defensive errors cost Pirates four points following draws against Bay United and Santos.

Said Modisane: ”The coach has worked hard this week in making sure we rectify those mistakes. We realise we cannot afford to keep making mistakes especially against a side like Swallows.”

And Modisane stressed: ”It is always the side that makes the fewer mistakes in the Soweto Derby who will win.” The former Dutch captain, Krol watched the DVD of Birds beating Chiefs and has worked out Birds strengths and weaknesses.

Birds’ key players are midfield workhorse and workaholic skipper Lefa Tsutsulupa, striker Sandile Ndlovu plus no-nonsense defenders Sibusiso Khumalo, Davi Rancan and Vinicius da Silva.

A closely contested clash is expected at the Super Stadium, where second placed Mamelodi Sundowns meet Bid Vest Wits at 6pm. Both sides go into the clash on the back of good wins last weekend. Downs scored a1-0 away win over Golden Arrows, while the Students downed Platinum Stars by the same margin at home.

After a poor start Downs expensive former French national coach Henri Michel is finally getting his players to fire and Wits would do well to take a point.

In Sunday’s other fixture, Arrows play Thanda Royal Zulu in a local Durban derby at the Mpumalanga Stadium. Kick-off is at 3.30pm. — Sapa