As Saturday draws nearer, the palpable sense of anticipation has grown increasingly stronger. It’s first taking on third. The Brazilians against the Glamour Boys. An opportunity to close the gap at the top, or assert Mamelodi dominance.
The excitement goes beyond the significance of the clash at the top of the table, however. There’s a sense among many fans and media pundits alike that Kaizer Chiefs vs Sundowns is now South Africa’s premier fixture.
At the very least there’s a nagging feeling that it’s taken some shine off the game that once held that honour — the Soweto Derby. Face-offs between the two township giants have generally failed to inspire in recent times, often failing to live up to the hype. Compounding the issue, the humdrum has coincided with the travails of Orlando Pirates of late. The Buccaneers have struggled to maintain a top-four spot in the past five-odd seasons, let alone been able to make a march on the title.
By contrast, in Masandawana and Amakhosi we have four of the last five league champions. For Chiefs captain, Itumeleng Khune, it’s a simple matter of success breeding passion. Fans want to watch winners.
“When both teams are doing well, the supporters are going to want to watch it live. That is what is happening,” he said ahead of the match.
“Since Sundowns were crowned the champions of Africa, they’ve attracted their supporters back to the stadium — they want to watch the champions play. And even with us, we are a big club in South Africa, with big crowds. So I don’t blame the fans at times when they won’t come to the matches, because we’re not giving them what they expect from us, which is entertainment and results.”
All involved will be rooting for a humdinger come the weekend. A provocative rivalry is good for the brand of both teams and the PSL.
Despite acknowledging that Sundowns’ continental glory has helped fill stadiums, Khune couldn’t resist a dig — implying Amakhosi are still the country’s most loved side.
“Even when we went to Pretoria, it was packed. We had more fans than the home team. And everywhere we go, that’s what happens, we fill up the stadiums. This past weekend, we were playing away, but it felt like it was our home game. So when Kaizer Chiefs win matches, we attract supporters to the stadium. So we just have to keep winning.”