Underdogs Pirates need to win

Derby veteran Itumeleng Khune. (BackpagePix)
Derby veteran Itumeleng Khune. (BackpagePix)

Johannesburg - Three games without a victory for Orlando Pirates – six points dropped. This makes Pirates underdogs going into the derby.

Four wins on the trot for Kaizer Chiefs – 12 points gained.

And this makes Amakhosi the clear favourites to win the derby.

But history and current form usually count for nothing in every Soweto derby and the two clubs would be aware of this.

Saturday’s Soweto derby is a numbers game.

Pirates, who started as the brighter side by winning two and scoring five in the process, have since faded with three below-par performances.

They will be the hungrier side going into the derby, as they need to get their campaign back on track.

Chiefs dropped five points in their opening two fixtures – a loss and a draw – but they have since recovered to earn 12 in four matches and will be eager to continue their winning form.

It might still be early in the season – six games for Chiefs and five for Pirates – but it does not matter when these two Soweto giants meet.

Again, it does not matter how you played in your previous games.

What counts is what you do on the day of the derby. Even more, current form counts for little as the underdogs usually rise to the occasion.

This game will not have any impact on the log standing, but it might define the way forward for either club – and, of course, the bragging rights for the supporters.

The derby always has its own rivalries, particularly in the goalkeeping department.

And this one is no different. Not long ago it was Itumeleng Khune against Senzo Meyiwa.

Then Brighton Mhlongo and Brilliant Khuzwayo entered the fray.

Now it is the Khune vs Mhlongo rivalry that looks to dominate the derby.

Their rivalry also extends to the national team as they are number one and two.

A week ago they were on the same flight on national duty, where they each played 90 minutes in two games.

On Saturday they will continue their rivalry as they try to outdo one another from opposing poles.

Khune, in particular, is a veteran of many derbies when compared with the young Mhlongo, who only had his big break after Meyiwa’s death in 2014.

After missing the opening two games of the season, Mhlongo benefited from Felipe Ovono’s butter hands as he reclaimed the number one jersey.

He has not looked back since then and has kept another Bafana goalkeeper, Jackson Mabokgwane, on the bench.

In the four games he has featured so far, the 25-year-old has kept a single clean sheet and conceded three goals.

Khune, on the other hand, is at his best once more. He has kept four clean sheets and conceded three in six matches.

The Chiefs number one and captain has also spurred his team towards their four consecutive victories.

Although Pirates are yet to lose a league game this season, the question is: how long can they go? They were not convincing in their previous three outings, which all ended in draws.

In fact, they were lucky to come back with a point from Polokwane City at the weekend, when an injury-time goal earned them a draw.

Pirates coach Muhsin Ertugral is already under pressure to get positive results and he knows a win against Chiefs will earn him more supporters. Steve Komphela knows the feeling of coming second in the derby and he hopes that he will be on the winning side.

He said his team had learnt a valuable lesson from their 3-1 defeat by Pirates in the Nedbank Cup.

“We committed errors in that defeat, but the lessons we learnt from that game carried us through,” Komphela said.

“The setback we suffered put us where we are. There is nothing wrong in suffering a setback, but it is what you learn that’s important.”

He said he hoped they keep up their momentum and get positive results.

“The biggest threat is that the underdogs are the ones who normally get [good] results in this match.

“We have to be extra careful because we are on form and feel better compared to them, but this must not mislead us because form counts for nothing.”

What happens on Saturday will not win either side the title, but it will go a long way towards shaping their future.

Can Pirates turn their fortunes round, or will Chiefs continue their winning streak?

Soweto derby - rivals at war

Venue: FNB Stadium

Time: 15:30.

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