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It's here, the derby of derbies

The countdown to the biggest football match on the South African calendar is upon us. The Soweto Derby.

The Soweto Derby has never carried as much importance as it does this time around. For many years winning the derby was more about bragging rights than anything else. There was nothing really at stake.

The derby has, in recent seasons, grown in stature. Several years ago, many people dismissed the Derby as just another game. Others even went as far as saying it was dying a slow death.

How quickly things have changed.

I do not remember so much hype months before the actual match. People have been looking forward to the clash so much that they even went to buy tickets the very minute sales opened. Tickets sales took less than two weeks. Supporters have shown that the Derby is here to stay.

The showdown has attracted the interests of football lovers outside our shores. The game will be telecast to audiences in Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia, and New Zealand as well as in the US. This represents 19 countries.

This is indeed good news for a match that was slowly being relegated to just another match in the Absa Premiership calendar.

For the past two seasons Orlando Pirates have been ahead of Kaizer Chiefs in terms of honours, winning six trophies in that period. The situation became unbearable to Chiefs boss Kaizer Motaung, who went all out to make Chiefs attractive again for top players.

With Chiefs making the brightest start of the two giants this season, it was only going to come down to the derby. There is a renewed belief among the Chiefs players. It seems nothing matters except the league title. Pirates, on the other hand, want to show that they can achieve more success.

With both teams having failed to make any telling impression in the last two cup competitions, winning the derby seems to the only thing to ease the pain.

Just a few days from now the whole country will come to a standstill. Preparations have begun in earnest

It is not every derby that has tickets sold out two weeks before the match. It has happened with this one. It goes to show that both sets of supporters are looking forward to this match. It was also interesting to note that those tickets were sold out ahead of a major final.

For the very first time there is this sense of belief from all sectors of life, that this is it, a derby worth talking about. Both teams are well positioned to stake claim at the top of the standings.

It is interesting to know that the two teams are going into this match with contrasting results from midweek. Chiefs fired the first shot when they showed their intent by putting Ajax Cape Town to the sword, beating the Cape side 3-0. With Chiefs opening up a four-point lead, it was left to Pirates to close it but it was not to be as the Buccaneers dropped two points against Chippa United.

The question then is who has the advantage going into Saturday’s clash? Well, those who are in the know will tell you that form does not play a part when these two giants meet.

In the playing field, many believe Chiefs have a slight advantage. Given their free-scoring form, the pundits are of the opinion that the back line of Pirates are in for a tough afternoon.

However, they will have to be reminded that the last time the two teams met in a pre-season clash. Chiefs scored early only to concede in the dying minutes via a header of Benni McCarthy, who seems to have developed a scoring habit against a team he supported growing up.

Given his history against Chiefs, many would have wished that he stayed off the pitch for at least until after the derby. Well, there is nothing stopping him now, because Benni is back for the big one. However it remains to be seen if coach Roger de Sa will thrust him into the deep end.

Pirates have been on fire and everybody seems to be enjoying themselves under De Sa’s guidance. Another man who would want to do better against Chiefs is former Khosi, Collins Mbesuma. Interestingly enough, he scored against Itumeleng Khune when Zambia played South Africa in the Nelson Mandela Challenge. Whether this will have any significance on Saturday, remains to be seen.

There is another interesting stat, to look at. All Chiefs victories happened at night and the last time they played during the day they lost their first game in 11 matches. Chiefs have never fallen behind in their matches until their 2-0 loss against Platinum Stars.

Considering that this match is during the day, can Pirates pull a fast one against their rivals by scoring first? It is doable; however it is worth noting that Chiefs are now able to up their game when the chips are down. Most exciting will be the result the derby will have on the top of the log.

The teams are evenly poised, and the fans at the stadium and the global audience are in for a great treat. Who will take this one?

Follow me on Twitter @azwihang

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