Tomorrow’s Soweto derby between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in the quarter-finals of the Telkom Knockout is the most important match these two giants will play this year. One of them will continue their long trophy drought, while the winner will move a step closer to winning a piece of silverware after years without claiming a prize. Players with Cup pedigree and big-match temperament will come in handy in the duel at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
The reigning PSL Footballer of the Season might not have much Cup pedigree, but he does know a thing or two about carrying his team in the Soweto derby. Lorch has been a thorn in the flesh for Amakhosi who have been tormented by him in the last couple of seasons. His playmaking ability and scoring touch is at the heart of Pirates’ recent dominance against Chiefs. Coach Rhulani Mokwena showed the striker’s importance when he rested him for Tuesday’s league win over Highlands Park as he is a booking away from suspension.
The Caf Champions League winner has been solid for the Sea Robbers in goal. He temporarily lost his place to Joris Delle who is more comfortable with the ball at his feet, but the Frenchman’s porous hands paved the way for Sandilands’ return. He hasn’t put a foot wrong since then. He was brilliant against Highlands Park, pulling off a number of brilliant saves to help his team keep a rare clean sheet. Sandilands is a composed goalkeeper who keeps his cool under pressure. He showed that when he was thrown in at the deep end in the second leg of the Champions League final by Mamelodi Sundowns in Alexandria against Zamalek.
The Buccaneers captain is one of a few players in the current squad who has tasted success with Pirates. The team has transformed dramatically from the side that lifted the Nedbank Cup in 2014. Since then a number of new faces have joined the club only to endure a long trophy drought. Jele has witnessed the highs, back-to-back domestic trebles, and lows, flirting with relegation, in his 13 years at the club. His experience will come in handy against a Chiefs team that are on a high, while Pirates are trying to navigate their way out of troubled waters.
The Chiefs hardman is a born leader. He speaks and conducts himself in an exemplary manner at Amakhosi, which is why he was given the armband in place of the injured Itumeleng Khune. The Zimbabwean’s aggression has come in handy for Chiefs whose defence has been thin at times. But since Eric Mathoho and Daniel Cardoso found their groove, Katsande hasn’t been called much to protect the two. Instead, he has solidified the midfield, which allows the attacking players to go forward with freedom.
The striker might have a love-hate relationship with the club’s supporters, but there is no denying his importance in the team due to his versatility. Parker has been used all over by coach Ernst Middendorp, from defence to midfield to his usual position upfront. Parker brings positive energy and a good work rate, which is why the German loves him. The Chiefs veteran brings a calming influence in the team, especially with Middendorp not afraid to throw youngsters in the side like he has done with Njabulo Blom, Happy Mashiane and Yagan Sasman. His work rate will come in handy against Pirates.
The Chiefs star came to the club with a lot of fanfare after dominating the country and continent with Mamelodi Sundowns. At his best, he was shortlisted for the Caf Footballer of the Year award for players based in Africa and he bagged the Footballer of the Season award in the PSL. He has won almost everything there is to win, and if Chiefs are to end their trophy drought – they will need Billiat to be on form to carry them to glory. The Zimbabwean is a winner, a trait he will be looking to pass on to his teammates as they look to end a run of four years without winning any silverware.