Playing for pride

2008-05-09 00:00

It must be the first time in its history that both competitors are in the bottom half of the table, but the Soweto derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates remains the most talked-about event on the domestic calendar.

Chiefs may be in ninth place in the Premier Soccer League, and Pirates in eleventh, but Mmabatho Stadium will be packed close to its 60 000 capacity this afternoon for the meeting between old foes, and the action is guaranteed to be frenetic.

Apart from pride, both Soweto giants also are desperate for points to stand a chance of finishing in the top eight.

Form has seldom counted for much in the derby, but Chiefs do come looking the healthier team, especially since Pirates could have some key absentees. Suspended right midfielder Joseph Makhanya will miss his first derby since turning pro in 2000.

More crucially, the Pirates medical staff have been working with Teko Modise to nurse the club’s star playmaker back to fitness after the injured toe he suffered in last week’s 2-1 defeat against Platinum Stars.

These add to the long-term injuries of defenders Lucky Lekgwathi and Kelebogile Mabe and midfielder Lindokuhle Mkhwanazi. Pirates will be concerned about central midfield, where Mkhwanazi’s absence,

and Modise’s potential absence could be exacerbated by a doubt over Mlungisi Gumbi (knee). It is hard to see which player in the Bucs’ 60-man squad would be able to pull the strings at playmaker with anywhere near the authority displayed by Modise this season.

Apart from injuries, the Buccaneers do not appear to be sailing on a happy ship. After surging to the top four just before Christmas, Pirates have plunged back down the log.

Bucs have won just twice in their last 10 games. Reports that chairman Irvin Khoza turned down a wish-list of four players asked for by coach Owen Da Gama, and speculation that the coach will not remain after this season suggest that it is a case of different coaching staff, but the same old problems.

Chiefs, on the other hand, have shown signs that their prospects might improve next season, and have lost just twice in ten games.

While Chiefs and Pirates play for pride, Supersport United will try to regain the PSL lead when they host Moroka Swallows at the Super Stadium in Atteridgeville tonight.

Ajax Cape Town seized back the lead with a 3-0 humbling of AmaZulu on Wednesday, but the Capetonians are not in action this weekend. After tonight’s game both Supersport and Ajax will have just two matches left , and Gavin Hunt’s team need to keep the pressure on.

Today: Kaizer Chiefs v Orlando Pirates (Mmabatho Stadium, 3 pm – live on SABC1 and SuperSport 4); Black Leopards v Lamontville Golden Arrows (Thohoyandou, 3 pm); Supersport United v Moroka Swallows (Super Stadium – live on SABC1).

Tomorrow: (both 3 pm) Bloemfontein Celtic v Wits University (Seisa Ramabodu); Thanda Royal Zulu v Santos (Hammarsdale Stadium – live on SuperSport 4).

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