The country’s biggest sporting fixture sees Orlando Pirates challenged to avoid a fifth consecutive defeat to arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs in their legendary rivalry in the DStv Premiership at FNB Stadium in Egoli on Saturday.
This situation has emerged as an exciting contrast to the preceding period when the Soweto giants played to an almost unacceptable number of draws in the massive fixture.
Their 3.30pm kick-off on Saturday in the country’s biggest stadium headlines a weekend programme that gets rolling on Friday night with Maritzburg United bidding to end a four-match winless run across all competitions when they face SuperSport United at 7.30 pm in Pretoria.
A win for Maritzburg against the odds would not only reignite coach Fadlu Davids’ team’s survival battle in the Premiership, but also help the Soweto giants in their quest to move above SuperSport United in the standings before the season ends in May and claim a place in African inter-club football.
As things stand in the “gentlemen’s section” of the 16-team log table with 10 matches remaining, third-placed Pirates sit two points behind second-placed SuperSport, while Chiefs are a further three points adrift in fifth spot.
At the other end, or “stragglers section”, Maritzburg and Swallows lie three points ahead of basement-dwelling Marumo Gallants, but two points behind 13th-placed Stellenbosch and three points adrift of Chippa United and AmaZulu, who have their own potentially-thrilling derby against Royal AM in Durban at 8 pm on Saturday.
In addition to Chiefs having beaten Pirates in their last four Premiership meetings since March 2021, with the very last one featuring an extraordinary goal from Yusuf Maart in October, Amakhosi can claim 73 victories overall to Bucs’ 44 from 171 official Soweto derbies since 1970, with 54 matches drawn.
However, Pirates possess better form at the moment and they will also be happy to have the top scorer in recent versions of the fixture, Thembinkosi Lorch, in good health again after a lengthy injury lay-off.
With three losses from their last five league matches this year, Chiefs won’t make log progress this particular weekend unless they can put a heap of goals into the Bucs net and fourth-placed Richards Bay come unstuck against Stellies at 5.30 pm at home on Saturday.
However, as part of the Soweto derby’s razzmatazz, even Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi is going to attend Saturday’s showdown.
He features in a half-time show “with a twist” that aims to “amplify” the premiere of Rise: The Siya Kolisi Story, to be broadcast on DStv on Sunday.
According to SuperSport, which is celebrating 15 years of partnering with the Premier Soccer League, 10 members of the famous Gwijo Squad will sing igwijo, which is synonymous with Kolisi, from the centre circle at FNB Stadium and the World Cup-winning rugby captain will address the crowd via a recording on the big screen.
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That further confirms the magnitude of the Soweto derby, but Pirates will be wary not to concede another “Maart missile” on Saturday as they continue with their bid to finish second in the Premiership and compete in the Caf Champions League’s next edition, or at least the Confederation Cup through finishing third in the Premiership or winning the Nedbank Cup.
The Champions League bill for this weekend also contains a spicy match-up from a South African perspective, as Premiership heavyweights Mamelodi Sundowns lock horns with Al Ahly at 9 pm on Saturday in Egypt.
Aside from being the away team in an environment known to be very tough for visitors, what arguably makes the game more difficult for Sundowns is the fact that Al Ahly lost their previous match in Group B, in contrast to the South Africans having recorded two wins on the trot against Coton Sport from Cameroon and Al-Hilal from Sudan.
There is also Confederation Cup action happening this weekend and this includes Marumo Gallants facing USM Alger in North Africa on Sunday, which indirectly gives Maritzburg a chance to increase pressure on Gallants in the relegation dogfight on the domestic scene.