With Kaizer Chiefs coach Gavin Hunt likely to face up to seven of his former charges when his side take on Orlando Pirates in the MTN8 semifinal on Saturday, the Soweto derby at Orlando Stadium will remind the fans of Bidvest Wits.
Wits, who were just a year short of their centennial, are now defunct after their Premiership status was bought by Tskhakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila before the start of the current PSL campaign.
Pirates have benefited the most from the Clever Boys’ demise by snapping up their star players, including captain Thulani “Tyson” Hlatshwayo, Deon Hotto and Terrence Dzvukamanja, as well as Thabo Monare, who arrived at Bucs last week.
Before the recent acquisition of the quartet, Pirates had already had former Wits players on their roster – in Vincent Pule, Ben Motshwari and Gabadinho Mhango.
Hunt, on the other side of the dugout, will be flanked by one of his assistants, Dillion Sheppard, as well as Reeve Frosler and kitman Jack Ndlovu, who all previously worked with the Chiefs head coach at Wits.
The derby will mark the first time that Hunt is in charge in the epic fixture featuring Soweto’s biggest clubs.
Pirates coach Josef Zinnbauer conceded that his counterpart “knows my players exactly [so well], some players who were in his [Wits] team last season. He knows their style.”
Having already handed Bucs debuts to Hlatshwayo, Hotto and Dzvukamanja, Zinnbauer hinted that Monare could get his chance on Saturday.
“His conditioning is 45 minutes,” he said in reference to the player’s readiness.
“Maybe he’s an option for the starting line-up. If he’s not a starter, then I hope we can bring him in [later in the game]. We know the quality of Monare and I hope he can use it.”
Bucs are also hopeful that Mhango – who is steadily establishing himself as a Chiefs conqueror – will pass his fitness test to take up his place in the attack on Saturday.
While Zinnbauer is heading into his second Soweto derby since he took charge of Pirates in December, the 50-year-old warned that, despite Hunt’s first experience in the blockbuster fixture, his 56-year-old counterpart was still a seasoned campaigner in the domestic game.
“He is a top coach who has a lot of experience and has won titles in this country. He knows exactly what a derby is.”
Meanwhile, Hunt played down the advantage of knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents who happen to be the players he mentored at different intervals at Wits.
“Yes, sure, I know all of them ... I signed all of them, so I know them very well, but I don’t think it makes any difference,” said Hunt during a virtual media conference on Thursday.
“It’s like doing video analysis of the opposition. I think it’s the most overrated thing in the world, because you can talk all day and talk all day, but the players have got to do it on the day.
“But, sure, I think six or seven of them are playing and I know their ins and outs, where they live; I know everything.”
Zinnbauer is upbeat this time, despite a 1-0 defeat in his maiden Soweto derby in February.
Pirates beat Cape Town City through a Dzvukamanja lone goal in the quarterfinals, while Chiefs eliminated Maritzburg United in the first round.
The return leg of the Soweto derby is set for next weekend.