Now that the midweek games are over and all eyes are on one of the most celebrated derbies in world football, the build-up has begun for the highly anticipated Soweto Derby.
The South African football showpiece pits two of South Africa’s greatest rivals against each other in a top of the table clash, which could go a long way in determining who is set the claim the title of PSL champions.
Orlando Pirates enter the clash with the pressure set firmly on their shoulders after a disappointing 0-0 draw with Chippa United on Wednesday night and they trail the AmaKhosi by three vital points. However, recent form means little during the high-intensity derby, in which every player will look to play to their potential and beyond.
Goal.com South Africa decided to select six standout players who may influence the result on Saturday afternoon. The players were chosen according to their big match temperament, current form and class.
|BENNI MCCARTHY - ORLANDO PIRATES
McCarthy returned from a long injury layoff on Wednesday night and almost gave Pirates the lead with a low drive in the second half. The striker played 67 minutes and will hope to make an appearance on Saturday afternoon.
McCarthy has an excellent Soweto Derby record with three goals in two matches, including two goals in the Buccaneers last league meeting with their rivals, which ended 3-2 in the champions favour. His third goal was a vital strike during the Carling Black Label Cup which helped Pirates to overcome their rivals during a penalty shoot-out.
His experience, class and ability to perform in important matches should outweigh his lack of game time and whether the marksman is given a starting place or is used as an impact player remains to be seen. A self-confessed Chiefs fan, the sublime Pirates striker will hope to continue his Soweto Derby record against the club he admired throughout his boyhood.
|RENEILWE LETSHOLONYANE - KAIZER CHIEFS
Everything “Yeye” touches turns to gold this season and the midfielder has been one of the main ingredients in Chiefs rampant run which sees them at the pinnacle of South African football. The Bafana Bafana star has all the assets required to succeed in the midfield.
With the ability to hold the ball, control the game, pick out attacking players with slick passes and provide his own attacking impetus with bursts of pace and powerful strikes, Letsholonyane will be Chiefs’ go-to man during the Derby.
The midfielder will focus on feeding balls to his attack-minded teammates but will face a tough task in dominating the midfield as he has to battle against an equally prolific Pirates midfield duo with the likes of Oupa Manyisa and Andile Jali set to start.
Letsholonyane has only played in three Soweto derbies, but does have immense local experience on his side and will be an integral player throughout the ninety minutes.
|COLLINS MBESUMA - ORLANDO PIRATES
The Zambian international found some impeccable form this season after improving his fitness and sharpness on the pitch. He has scored five goals in eleven starts for the Buccaneers including some match winning performances against Black Leopards and Pretoria University.
His sumptuous strike against South Africa during an international friendly displays the striker’s renewed confidence and vigour.
With strength and a dangerous left foot in his armoury, Mbesuma will hope to crack the nod for a starting place during the derby but may be used as an impact player for the Buccaneers.
His sheer weight of goals this season places him firmly on the list of potential game-breakers and his experience coupled with a potential to create something out of nothing makes him a dangerous customer for Kaizer Chiefs to deal with, and the AmaKhosi will have to maintain their defensive strength supplied by the likes of Tefu Mashamaite
|BERNARD PARKER - KAZIER CHIEFS
The league’s top scorer seems to have overcome a mid-season slump in form with a goal against Ajax Cape Town on Tuesday night. Parker has been prolific this season combining incisive movement, pace and some truly clinical finishing.
9 league goals in total, Parker has developed a telepathic understanding with strike partner Lehlonolo Majoro. The duo has tormented defences throughout this campaign, notching up 15 goals in the process. He will be playing in his fourth Soweto Derby and he has yet to find a goal during the match-up.
Parker’s early season goal fest experienced a quiet period, where he did not find the back of the net in around three months after a two goal tally against Bidvest Wits in late September. But his goal against Ajax opened the scoring for Chiefs and spurred on a good performance from the Bafana Bafana marksman.
Without Siyabonga Sangweni in defence, Pirates will hope the ageing legs of Lucky Leghwati can deal with Parker’s bursts of speed and ability to run defences ragged.
|THABO MATLABA - ORLANDO PIRATES
Pirates’ adventurous full-back has been in a confident mood lately, scoring one of the goals of the season against Bidvest Wits in November. The goal has gone viral on the internet and Matlaba’s name has been secured in the minds of many after the wonder strike. Matlaba adds to the Buccaneer’s attacking threat down either flank as the versatile full-back possesses impressive pace and sublime technique.
His ability to shoot and provide crosses with both feet makes him a tricky customer, and his defensive efforts are helped by his bursts of speed which enables him to track back after making dangerous runs down the wing.
Targeting a place in the national set-up, Matlaba enters his second Soweto Derby with a point to prove. His confidence is bursting at the seams and he will want to weigh in with another prolific strike against the AmaKhosi.
|ITHUMELENG KHUNE- KAIZER CHIEFS
Khune’s influence goes beyond mere goalkeeping. He is Chief’s showman and rock in defence, using his expert shot stopping abilities and large amounts of international and local experience to good use.
Khune has remained South Africa’s number one with some decisive performances this season, with Chiefs lying second behind opponents Pirates on goals conceded.
His ability to marshal his defence and inspire his supporters with acrobatic and brave goalkeeping will be an essential element on Saturday afternoon. Khune will have to face pressure from the likes of Collins Mbesuma, Takesure Chinyama and Benedict McCarthy and the shot-stopper’s experience will stand him in good stead for the challenges ahead.