Today die poppe gaan dans in SowetoThomas Kwenaite
South Africa will grind to a standstill this afternoon and almost every household would focus their attention at events taking place at Soweto’s Orlando Stadium when Orlando Pirates hosts visiting and to be honest, limping Kaizer for a DStv Premiership match.
The match is considered among the top five derbies in the continent and in spite of the fact that Chiefs would enter the original venue were epic battles have been fought between the two teams for almost the last half century, seemingly on a wing and a prayer, it would be evenly matched.
A combination of factors, chief among them a ban by FIFA preventing the club from Naturena from registering new players following a transgression relating to the signing of Malagasy international Dax, Chiefs have been left threadbare in the playing personnel.
It is the reason why Sundowns not only overtook them to breast the tape last year, but have continued to strengthen their own personnel even this week, added former Marzitzburg United central defender Rushine de Reuck to their roster, a stark reminder of how much the ban has hurt their (Chiefs) ambitions.
Yet despite these challenges, they led the race for the better part of the last campaign and lost the championship during the last 20 minutes of a dramatic race as Sundowns pipped them to the past after they failed to break down a stubborn Baroka.
Since then, they fired coach Ernst Middendorp and hired Gavin Hunt, but the serial championship winner inherited a team that appeared psychologically punch drunk from disappointment of leading the race for the entire season only to be overtaken in the last minute.
They have stuttered and hobbled since the beginning of the season and although Hunt appeared to have steadied the ship during the last couple of weeks, they still seem to lack confidence in themselves and only a good performance against their perennial rivals could spark the fire under their bellies.
Pirates on the other hand, should not enter their notorious den with their heads in the cloud and dismiss their wounded and dejected opponents as cannon fodder. They know too well that Chiefs are most dangerous when their backs are against the wall.
In fact, they (Pirates) have not been convincing either. They have been sensational and brilliant in patches, like when they went all the way to win the season opening MTN 8 Cup competition in style, dispatching Kaizer Chiefs 5-0 over two legs in a swaggering style.
But then resembled a 1948 Volkswagen Beetle as they huffed and stuttered in their next couple of matches in a terrible failure to maintain consistency and so the signs are there that a moment’s lapse in concentration would be duly punished by Chiefs.
Yet despite their short comings and challenges, with both shorn of key players due to an assortment on injuries and suspensions, both teams are the life blood of South African football and their clash never fails to capture the imagination of the country and certainly the continent.
In essence, the game encapsulates everything that is South Africa and it is well known fact that families would be divided this afternoon when the two bulls decide who gets the bragging rights.
In most cases, it I pride, more than anything that drives this derby as neither is prepared to lose to the other and both set of players need to motivation whenever these two teams clash.
On their day, Pirates are lethal and unstoppable with lightning fast attacks orchestrated by Ben Motswari and Fortune Makaringe, and it would be up to the Chiefs youngsters Happy Mashiane, Darrel Matsheke and Nkosingiphile Ngcobo to stem the tide.
A lot would depend on how Deon Hotto in particular adjust and reacts and should be hit the right notes with Terrence Dzvukamanja as well as Gabadino Mhango, then die poppe gaan dans!
Yet it is a known fact that nobody in their right minds would be daft enough to ignore the sniper – Samir Nurkovic – who on his day is capable of unsettling any defence due to the fact that he is not only mobile but capable of harassing any rearguard with his strength.
Whichever way you look at it, the two teams are aware of the responsibilities lying on their respective shoulders to lift the gloom that has been brought by the Covid-19 pandemic and at least for a few hours, make people smile in admiration about all that is good about South African football!