Sparks fly as ri­val gi­ants face off

Last week, the leg­ends re­quested a re­turn to rip-roar­ing Soweto derby play and the young­sters de­liv­ered a sen­sa­tional game yes­ter­day Sharks de­served the vic­tory as they plowed past Western Prov­ince in a game that sim­mered with in­tent but strug­gled to com

CityPress - - Front Page - DANIEL MOTHOWAGAE at FNB Sta­dium daniel.mothowagae@city­press.co.za – City Press cor­re­spon­dent

BUCK­ING THE TREND Kaizer Chiefs and Or­lando Pi­rates fans showed up and showed off in their best re­galia for the 164th Soweto Derby at the FNB Sta­dium in Soweto, Jo­han­nes­burg yes­ter­day. The PSL clash was a tense af­fair, with Pi­rates edg­ing Chiefs 2-1 at the fi­nal whis­tle

The talk lead­ing up to yes­ter­day’s Soweto derby was dom­i­nated by Or­lando Pi­rates as­sis­tant coach Ru­lani Mok­wena tak­ing digs at the Kaizer Chiefs tech­ni­cal ac­u­men – or lack thereof.

It was not sur­pris­ing that Pi­rates head coach Mi­lutin Sre­do­je­vić lauded Mok­wena as one of the be­hind-the-scenes in­flu­ences that con­trib­uted to the win over Amakhosi in yes­ter­day’s Absa Pre­mier­ship en­counter.

Al­though Sre­do­je­vić main­tained that his deputy’s re­marks – that Chiefs have lacked tech­ni­cal lead­er­ship post Steve Kom­phela – were mis­di­rected, even though the Serb lauded the young men­tor for lead­ing the anal­y­sis that proved spot-on on match day.

“Credit to Ru­lani. [His com­ments] can mo­ti­vate the op­po­nents, but they were mis­di­rected and were not part of the game [yes­ter­day],” Sre­do­je­vić said.

“The mis­sion has been ac­com­plished, but we are not car­ried away.”

Sre­do­je­vić ac­knowl­edged that his team started on the back foot in the open­ing 20 min­utes of the game, where Siyabonga Mpontshane’s goal­keep­ing howler gifted Khama Bil­liat the eas­i­est of goals 15 min­utes into the game.

Amakhosi, how­ever, failed to pro­tect their lead and let the Buc­ca­neers back in with jit­ters in a changed de­fence that had the cen­tral pair­ing of Siyabonga Ngezana and Mario Booy­sen.

Pi­rates had ear­lier missed a penalty af­ter Justin Shonga’s spot kick was saved by Chiefs goal­keeper Itume­leng Khune, but In­no­cent Maela en­sured that the Buc­ca­neers were level just be­fore the half-hour mark.

Vin­cent Pule net­ted in the 32nd minute in what proved to be the win­ner on his de­but in the epic fix­ture.

“We need strong char­ac­ters and must de­velop a win­ning men­tal­ity,” said Chiefs coach Gio­vanni Soli­nas af­ter his first Soweto derby in charge ended in de­feat.

“Play­ing for Chiefs is not easy be­cause the ex­pec­ta­tion is very big. We have the po­ten­tial be­cause the league [race] is very bal­anced.”

Soli­nas also urged Amakhosi to be con­sis­tent as they are yet to repli­cate the form that saw them win three league games on the trot last month.

For a long time, the Soweto der­bies have been al­most pre­dictable, but yes­ter­day’s af­fair had a dif­fer­ent di­men­sion to it – even if it was driven by two in­di­vid­u­als.

Pi­rates at­tacker Pule and his Chiefs coun­ter­part Bil­liat no doubt en­deared them­selves to the Soweto folk­lore with the way they played with­out fear on de­but in the derby.

In the process, the pair lived up to the pre-match hype as the ones who were punted to di­rect the epic en­counter.

For their part – even though they were later re­placed – it was jus­tice served that Pule and Bil­liat were on the score sheet.

Also, it was the at­tack-minded ap­proach from the two tech­ni­cal benches that al­lowed for free-flow­ing foot­ball on the day – and goals fol­lowed.

Truth be told, it could have been more than just the three goals on the day had it not been for the in­de­ci­sive­ness or lack of com­po­sure dis­played by both teams.

Pi­rates’ main cul­prit was Shonga, as the striker again failed to trans­fer his goal-scor­ing form from the Zam­bian na­tional team to the club. His day of misses in­cluded a missed penalty in the first half.

How­ever, he redeemed him­self as the provider of the cross that de­fender Maela headed home from a corner kick.

It was the kind of this fight­back that im­pressed Sre­do­je­vić the most.

“The play­ers showed a strong men­tal strength. The missed [saved] penalty was an in­jec­tion of mo­ti­va­tion,” he said.

Changes from both sides were aplenty. Bucs coach Sre­do­je­vić sur­pris­ingly rel­e­gated Jack­son Mabokg­wane to the bench and opted for Mpontshane in goal, just like when the big goalie made a shock re­turn to the line-up in the 3-1 ham­mer­ing of Chiefs in March.

Soli­nas also tweaked the team that elim­i­nated Black Leop­ards from the Telkom Knock­out last week­end by re­call­ing all the big guns for the big match.

Khune came in for Vir­gil Vries in goal; Booy­sen re­placed Mu­lo­mowan­dau Mathoho; Du­misani Zuma got the nod ahead of Hen­drick Ek­stein; while Bil­liat led the front line with Leonardo Cas­tro, who has re­cov­ered from an an­kle in­jury.

It might still be a bit early into the Absa Pre­mier­ship marathon, but the fact that the two Soweto gi­ants found them­selves among the early pace­set­ters could well set the tone in a race where for­mer cham­pi­ons Bid­vest Wits have as­sumed con­trol.

With their win yes­ter­day, Pi­rates nar­rowed the gap at the top to one point adrift of Wits, who con­sol­i­dated their lead with a 1-0 vic­tory over High­lands Park on Fri­day.

Other pre­mier­ship re­sults:

Chippa United 0-1 Mamelodi Sun­downs AmaZulu 0-3 Cape Town City Polok­wane City 1-0 Maritzburg United

In a some­what for­get­ful fi­nal that seem­ingly took its cue from the af­ter­thought na­ture of this year’s Cur­rie Cup com­pe­ti­tion, the Sharks avenged their de­feat from the cor­re­spond­ing fix­ture last year by mug­ging Western Prov­ince at home for the do­mes­tic cham­pi­ons’ ti­tle.

The rugby may have been poor, but there was no deny­ing that the Sharks were the de­served win­ners, thanks to a de­fence that re­stricted a Western Prov­ince team that had won all seven of its games be­fore the fi­nal.

The re­sult was that the tro­phy was wrested from the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons’ grasp as Sharks coach Robert du Preez won his first ti­tle at first-class level, his son Robert Ju­nior tak­ing suc­ces­sive cup vic­to­ries af­ter win­ning with Prov­ince last year.

The first half was one of those 40-minute pe­ri­ods one wishes they would be given back, so ner­vous were the two teams and so poor the rugby.

With both sides in­tent on play­ing the ter­ri­tory game, pos­ses­sion was fre­quently kicked away with­out nec­es­sar­ily be­ing re­gained in the sti­fling heat at New­lands, Cape Town.

In a game that sim­mered with in­tent but never quite came to the boil, atro­cious pass­ing and han­dling also aided the stop­start na­ture of the game in the first half.

So dif­fi­cult was it to build any kind of mo­men­tum that the first points in the match were an SP Marais penalty in the 20th minute.

While poor han­dling looked to have af­fected the Western Prov­ince back­line – which was picked to run at the Sharks with Josh Stander at 10 and Damian Willemse out­side him – it was costlier for the vis­i­tors as the Du Preez twins, Jean-Luc and Dan, lost con­trol in the act of scor­ing ei­ther side of half-time.

For those who like some kind of pat­tern to go with their games, the hosts – thanks to Ali Ver­maak putting a stop to Thomas “The Tank” du Toit – emerged as the stronger side in the scrums when the dust had set­tled in the many restarts.

But the vis­i­tors clearly had the up­per hand in the line-out, where Spring­bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi fre­quently over­shot the line with his throw­ing and found op­po­si­tion hands at the tail. The main rea­son for that would have been the Sharks pick­ing ha­bit­ual lock for­ward Tyler Paul at open­side flank as an ex­tra line-out op­tion. The im­me­di­ate re­sults of these set piece in­dis­cre­tions were the sub­sti­tu­tion of both Du Toit and Mbonambi at half-time.

As much as the Sharks’ han­dling had robbed them of the chance to keep the hosts at arm’s length through tries scored, it was they who fash­ioned the most chances, with their de­fence keep­ing the much-vaunted but ul­ti­mately dis­jointed back­line score­less.

That’s why it made sense when Akker van der Merwe scored in the 44th minute, a try the ori­gins of which were an­other kick ahead that wasn’t re­gained, with the Sharks re­cy­cling the ball for nine phases be­fore the hooker wrig­gled over the try line.

And when Paul forced his way af­ter yet an­other pick-and-go fest in the 71st minute, one couldn’t help but get the feel­ing it was over, de­spite the fact that it took the score to 17-9, with Prov­ince nail­ing a penalty not long af­ter.

As it turned out, that’s all it took as the vis­i­tors’ de­fence con­tin­ued to be im­preg­nable as they ran the clock down.

PHO­TOS: DENVOR DE WEE / BAKONE PIX

PHOTO: DENVOR DE WEE / BAKONE PIX

MID­FIELD MA­NIA Kaizer Chiefs for­ward Leonardo Cas­tro in ac­tion against Or­lando Pi­rates mid­fielder Mar­shall Munetsi dur­ing yes­ter­day’s Soweto derby at FNB Sta­dium

PHOTO: ASH­LEY VLOTMAN / GALLO IMAGES

KEEP PUSH­ING Aphelele Fassi of the Sharks and Sergeal Petersen of Western Prov­ince get into the groove in the Cur­rie Cup fi­nal match yes­ter­day

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