Kaizer Chiefs captain Willard Katsande cut his usual shy figure during the preview of his team’s clash against sworn enemies Orlando Pirates but his sentiments about Chiefs intentions were not lost to fans.
The Soweto Derby is the most hyped-up football match in the country, but for a season and a half, from the start of the 2015 term to mid-2017, the tie was deemed as a drawbie, due to unprecedented draws. But last year, Pirates turned Chiefs to their whipping boys, winning three successive matches before recently playing to a 1-1 draw in the last Premiership tussle.
Enter the current campaign. There’s been a breath of fresh air that’s engulfed Chiefs, who sit at the summit of the Premiership standings following seven wins, one draw and one loss.
The Glamour Boys will get a chance top to cap off that impressive start should they progress to the semi-final of the Telkom Knockout at the fate of the Sea Robbers, who they meet tomorrow (3pm) at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
“The record doesn’t favour us at the moment. We’ve played them a couple of times in the Telkom Knockout. They beat us last season. But before that, we won against them and went to the final that we lost,” said Katsande at the Naturena Village this week. “That’s history and now there’s a chance to turn the tables. We are in a better frame of mind. There’s a fighting spirit among the players, so it’s possible that we can win and advance to the next round.”
Chiefs’ belief that they’ve got what it takes to take a step closer to ending their four-year drought has been propelled by none other than coach Ernst Middendorp.
He has come across as a father figure to his troops. Middendorp has also injected a fighting spirit that has been lacking under his predecessors.
“It’s about professionalism.He is honest and strict,” Katsande said.
The urge to do well and return the club back to its lofty billing has become a common factor that has been shared by veterans and youngsters.
When Ghanaian international James Kotei joined the club back in August, he was expected to dethrone Katsande to the stands. But far from disappointment, the Zimbabwean international has backed Kotei to succeed.
“When there’s a new player arriving in the team, someone is entitled to their own opinion but I know James is a quality player,” Katsande said. “I’ve seen him. He just needs to adapt to the league.
“You guys are going to have these kinds of press conferences with him because I believe in him. He’ll take over going forward.”