Are Kaizer Chiefs going to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat in the Soweto Derby? It’s a question that has dogged the team everywhere they went this week.
“I’ve already played two derbies and didn’t get positive results,” Khama Billiat said as he attempted to answer it. “I thank God that there’s another opportunity and let’s hope that this time around it will be on our side.
“There’s so much pressure but on the day it’s how you manage it to be more professional on the day. You can’t panic and do things in a hurry because you haven’t been getting the results. We need to be calm on the day and make the right decisions.”
Billiat was speaking from the Premier Soccer League offices on Thursday where Amakhosi and Orlando Pirates gathered for a final press conference ahead of the anticipated match on Saturday.
It was a respectful, perhaps even timid affair between the two teams as they took turns praising each other and talking up the occasion. Nothing like the build-up to the first league Derby where Bucs’ assistant coach Rulani Mokwena took aim at then-coach Giovanni Solinas by saying Amakhosi were less tactically astute under him than Steve Komphela.
Current boss Ernst Middendorp did, however, have some strong words for his own players; calling on them to step up and not crumble under the weight of expectation.
“That’s what the coach told us from day one – to show some commitment,” Willard Katsande said. “Don’t doubt yourself, give your all. I think you’ve seen that in our performances. Unfortunately the result wasn’t there in the last game day but the commitment is.
“We need to apply the same effort, the same tactics, the same effort — everything that the coach has been telling us we need to execute on Saturday.
Chiefs lost their last outing in the league, going down 1-0 to Cape Town City at FNB Stadium last week Wednesday. Despite bossing most of, Billiat and Co couldn’t convert their chances and ultimately fell victim to a Virgil Vries blunder. (Middendorp, incidentally, wouldn’t be drawn on whether the goalkeeper would start)
Another loss there this weekend would all but kill their title aspirations and make for terrible reading on the recent Soweto Derby head-to-head record. Pirates have won the last three, two in this season alone.
The last Amakhosi win in the fixture, meanwhile, came on the 2015 edition of the Telkom Knockout.
“For us we keep our heads down,” Bucs captain Happy Jele said of the impressive run. “The commitment that we put in at training and the hard work … we humble ourselves. We push and push, each and every day to get results.”