DURBAN – All eyes will be on the debutants in the Soweto Derby when Orlando Pirates lock horns with Kaizer Chiefs at the FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Both sides are in desperate need of maximum points for different reasons.
To triumph on the day (3.30pm kickoff), they will need goals, but the focus will be at the back, where the spotlight will be on Daniel Akpeyi and Alfred Ndengane.
The duo, who are set to make their debuts in the derby, will be responsible for making sure that their teams don’t concede on the day.
Ndengane has already appeared in the colours of the Buccaneers, but is yet to taste the experience of playing in the country’s biggest football derby.
He will be tasked with marshalling dangerous Chiefs front men Khama Billiat and Leonardo Castro.
Castro netted twice against Pirates last year and seems to enjoy coming up against the Buccaneers, and Ndengane will have to be on top of his game to compete with Castro aerially and contain him throughout the game.
The Colombian is a difficult customer to stop if he is given room to go into spaces.
Ndengane is very strong physically and is a good tackler. He is comfortable with the ball on his feet, and can score goals with his head from set-plays.
He is also a good reader of the game, but can he handle the pressure that comes with playing in the derby?
His big-match temperament will surely be tested on the day.
Akpeyi is also likely to feature for the first time in the colours of Amakhosi. The goalkeeper will be thrown in at the deep end and the Nigerian faces a baptism of fire.
Chiefs’ second-choice keeper Virgil Vries has committed a calamity of errors in the absence of the injured Itumeleng Khune.
Amakhosi have lost six points because of Vries, and last Wednesday’s league game against Cape Town City may well have been his last in the colours of Chiefs.
Akpeyi has to hit the ground running. He will be under pressure to deliver on the day and show why Chiefs broke the bank to acquire his services.
He is experienced, though.
Akpeyi has played in major tournaments in his career. He was in Nigeria’s Olympic squad at the 2016 Rio Games in Brazil and was also part of the Super Eagles team that participated in the World Cup in Russia last year
He knows what it is like to play on the big stage.