Ertugral challenge adds more spice to Soweto Derby

The long-awaited Soweto Derby between arch rivals Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, scheduled for Ellis Park on Saturday (4pm), has
more at stake than pride—it could go a long way to decide the destiny of the Absa Premiership title.

Amakhosi coach Muhsin Ertugral still believes Chiefs can pip leaders and defending champions SuperSport United for the championship.

His challenge has added more spice to Saturday’s Soweto Derby.

Ertugral said to keep the pressure on United, Chiefs have to defeat Pirates to keep their hopes of an upset alive.

Said Ertugral: “I keep saying anything is possible in football. Who would believe the season would turn out like this. United are favourites but should we beat Pirates—and I reckon we can—then we would be only four points behind United with both United and Chiefs left with two games to play.

“Then I believe anything could happen. No team is guaranteed anything. The season has been a revelation to everyone.”

United have the week off while second placed Bucs meet third placed Amakhosi in the Derby in order to play their match in hand over United.

SuperSport have 54 points after they drew 1-1 with Bucs at Loftus last Thursday that left Pirates with 48 points, one more than Amakhosi who defeated Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 in Durban in their Thursday night clash.

Ertugral said all thoughts of league glory would be pushed aside. “All I care about this week is preparing the side to beat Pirates. That would be a tremendous result. We have slowly come from behind and after beating Sundowns in Durban last Thursday, the self belief is back. That win over Downs came at just the right time ahead of the Pirates clash.”

But Ertugral said whatever the result, fans of both clubs should celebrate. “The fans of both Chiefs and Pirates are unique in the world. There is rivalry on the field but no aggression off the pitch among supporters. That is what is so good about the Soweto Derby. My plea is to the officials and fans is to relax and let the clubs do the talking on the pitch and make this game a celebration of what is good about South African soccer.”

With speculation over Ertugral’s future at Chiefs, the Turkish-born coach would love nothing more than to defeat Pirates and even if they fail to win the league, finish runners up and end the season with a bang.

Said Ertugral: “My biggest goal is beating Pirates on Saturday and making sure that Chiefs qualify to compete in the African Champions League next year and to do that we have to win the league or at least finishing second. But we have to do the hard work and that is to win our remaining three games and hope United slip.”

Ertugral will be giving his hard-working midfielder, David Mathebula, some time off this week.

Explained the Amakhosi coach: “Mathebula ran his heart out against Sundowns and came off afterwards complaining of dizziness, so I will give him a bit of a rest and see how he feels later in the week. I need everyone focused on Pirates and do not want to put extra pressure on any player.”

Apart from Mathebula, all Chiefs’ regular players are keen to get in on the Derby action. A good performance in the Derby can make a player. And with both Bucs and Chiefs gunning for United’s title, fans can expect plenty of fireworks.—Sapa

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