Battle of titans in MTN8 finale

2014-09-19 00:00

THEY are two legends of South African football and good friends, but there will be no love lost when Doctor Khumalo and Eric Tinkler square off in tomorrow night’s MTN8 final at Moses Mabhida Stadium.

The two assistant coaches were speaking in Durban yesterday ahead of the most eagerly anticipated Soweto derby of recent times between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.

For Pirates assistant Tinkler, there was a touch of déjà vu. The Buccaneers were in Durban for last year’s final, albeit a less glamorous occasion, before they went down to shock champions Platinum Stars after a penalty shootout.

But this is a different matter entirely, and what makes this particular derby so appealing is the fact that both sides come into the match in red-hot form.

Chiefs have won all nine — six league and three cup — of the matches that they have played so far this season, while Pirates, after a slow start in the PSL, are also back to their best.

While they want completely different outcomes tomorrow night, both Tinkler and Khumalo acknowledged yesterday that the Soweto derby itself was something to appreciate.

“It is the dream of every single player to play in this derby, irrespective of whether it is a friendly or a cup final,” said the 44-year-old Tinkler, capped 48 times by Bafana.

“For us as coaches, it is a game that is pretty easy for us to motivate players. As footballers and coaches, these are the games that you want to be involved in.”

Khumalo agreed, but was looking to keep his charges grounded.

“We are not going to treat this game any differently to what we have treated any other game. That’s not going to change because we are playing Orlando Pirates,” said the former Bafana midfielder.

“We know the magnitude of the game and what is expected of us, and we know the supporters want to see us lift this trophy. For us the most important thing is for the players to stay focused and enjoy themselves.”

The derby has been criticised over the past few years, owing largely to the conservative approach both sides have taken.

Tinkler accepted the criticism, and tried to explain why South African football’s most anticipated fixture might be lacking flair at the moment.

“This is the fourth-biggest derby in the world, and there is a lot of pressure on both teams to get the result. There are bragging rights for the fans at stake, and that is vitally important,” said Tinkler.

“I know that past games haven’t been the most entertaining games, because we have cancelled each other out. Hopefully we will go out there and be attacking, but you’ve got to understand that neither team wants to lose.”

Khumalo was far less accepting of such criticism, pointing instead to the fact that football in South Africa has become a far more technical entity.

“What qualifies for a derby to be interesting? You need to quantify that statement. The game has changed. There are so many aspects that have contributed to the derby changing. Gone are the days where you have to please the crowd.”

Other than the absence of Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and Pirates centre-back Lucky Lekgwathi, both sides go into the match fully fit.

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