Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates will soon face off against each other twice in one week, a rare occurrence that last played itself out four years ago.
It is also a sheer coincidence that one of the matches in the 2015 back-to-back Soweto derbies was the last occasion when Amakhosi managed to put one over their rivals in an official game.
In a similar fixture sequence four years ago, Bucs thumped Amakhosi 3-1 in a league match in October 2015. However, Chiefs got their revenge a week later with a 6-5 penalties win – after an extended goalless spell – in the Telkom Knockout semifinals.
The Telkom Knockout quarterfinal draw this week produced the particulars of the first of the latest Soweto derby showdowns. Amakhosi will host the cup game in Durban on Saturday and will stage the Absa Premiership against the Buccaneers at FNB Stadium a week later.
MOKWENA’S BIGGEST TEST
Should Bucs caretaker coach Rulani Mokwena win the back-to-back derbies, he will endear himself to the faithful. But defeats could spell disaster for him in the hot seat and increase calls for his dismissal.
Winning this epic clash could go a long way to restoring some faith in his coaching abilities, as was the case with his former principal, Milutin Sredojevic. Micho didn’t deliver silverware for Bucs, but, during his second stint that ended abruptly two months ago, the Serb got the cup for beating Chiefs.
THE THEMBINKOSI LORCH EFFECT
Chiefs’ long struggle in the derby is not the doing of either coaches or players, but that of one individual who has often turned the show into his own – Bucs’ Thembinkosi Lorch.
“Nyoso”, as the tricky winger is called, has established himself as the conqueror of Chiefs lately.
The 26-year-old may well be on the list of the most wanted men in Phefeni, the original home of Chiefs, to give an account of himself for the trail of destruction he’s left in his wake recently.
Since March last year, Lorch has scored in all the matches where Pirates emerged victorious, and also salvaged bragging rights in the annual preseason exhibition match, the Carling Cup, three months ago.
Amakhosi may as well embrace the fact that Mulomowandawu Mathoho and Daniel Cardoso have forged a solid partnership in central defence lately.
The pair might also have observed their Bafana Bafana team-mate Lorch at close range during South Africa’s camp for the friendly against Mali a fortnight ago.
CAN LIGHTNING STRIKE TWICE AT MABHIDA?
The Moses Mabhida Stadium was the scene of Chiefs’ last confrontation with Pirates in an official cup clash.
Amakhosi, who were guided by Italian Giovanni Solinas at the time, seemed to have had a plan in that Telkom Knockout semifinal clash when Leonardo Castro cancelled Lorch’s early lead almost immediately, but then lost the game at the death.DERBY RECORDS OF BOTH COACHES UNDER THREAT
Carling Cup defeat aside, Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp has never lost to Pirates while in charge of Amakhosi – even during his bittersweet first spell in Naturena from 2005 to 2007.
The German’s reappointment in December came at the right time to arrest further embarrassment as Chiefs had already suffered back-to-back defeats when he assumed his tenure.
Middendorp has already brought back some sense of belief in the team with his first derby since his return finishing 1-1 in February.
Cardoso had given his side the lead, but Lorch spoiled the party with a late equaliser. Similarly, Mokwena has also not ended on a losing side in a Soweto derby in an official game since he joined Pirates as assistant in August 2017.
But – sorry for Middendorp and Mokwena – there can only be one winner in Saturday’s cup game.
BIG GAME FOR BIG PLAYERS
While Lorch has proven a number of times that he possesses a big-match temperament, Chiefs duo Leonardo Castro and Khama Billiat fall in the same category.
The two were actually on the scoresheet of the last official encounters between the two giants.
But if there has ever been a time for Chiefs to disregard the old saying of “don’t kick a man when he’s down”, it is now. Pirates are still trying to find their footing under Mokwena, while Amakhosi have counted more wins than losses since the start of the current campaign.