27 February 2020, by: Ben Dlamini
Kaizer Chiefs v Orlando Pirates: Soweto Derby Combined XI
As we draw closer to the biggest derby in Southern Africa, football lovers tend to grow a nostalgic feeling and look back on some of the most memorable moments to happen in the Soweto Derby. Instead of doing that, we’ve chosen to look at the now and compare both teams, who are fighting at the fruitful end of the tree at the same, in a long time.
This has proven to be a fixture that divides co-workers, friends and family members, but here, we’re putting the players together in creating the ultimate combined XI ahead of the 50th anniversary between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.This one will raise a few eyebrows, but over the course of the season, the Nigerian shot-stopper, Daniel Akpeyi seems the best fit here. Throughout the campaign, he’s kept Kaizer Chiefs in safe hands, keeping eight clean sheets in 17 matches. There has been some talk in the build-up to the derby whether Mzansi’s number one, Itumeleng Khune, should return to the starting line-up after his recovery to full fitness, but head coach, Ernst Middendorp, has given Akpeyi his full support ahead of Amakhosi’s run-in to keep their lead at the top of the table.Picking a right-sided defender seems relatively easy as Orlando Pirates have shuffled the pack on too many occasions in this position. Even so, Reeve Frosler would be a strong contender to make the combined XI, either way, coming to life this season with his superb crosses, ability to defend on one-on-one situations and his consistent 8/10 performances. Frosler also had a decent display in the last derby before he went off injured, so perhaps he’ll get a chance to prove himself over 90 minutes why he’s seen as the best right-back in the fixture.Yet again, Daniel Cardoso’s inclusion in the Soweto Derby combined XI is a relatively easy one to pick. The 31-year-old Kaizer Chiefs defender has played every single minute of the campaign thus far, helping his side keep 10 clean sheets, while he has also netted four times – including the winning penalty against Orlando Pirates earlier in the season. Cardoso certainly goes under the radar with his performances and has slowly established himself as one of the first names on Middendorp’s team sheet.Once again, Orlando Pirates defenders miss out, not because of their poor form, but the likes of Cardoso and Eric Mathoho have just been too solid together this season. Like his centre-back partner, ‘Tower’ has also netted four times this campaign and has been involved in eight clean sheets in 18 appearances for the Glamour Boys. His experience and guidance has been key for Chiefs this season, influencing both the offensive and defensive side of the pitch.Just like Frosler on the opposite side of the defence, Innocent Maela walks into a combined XI team without any real arguments to suggest otherwise. The 27-year-old has kept six clean sheets while playing for Orlando Pirates this term, providing his first assist of the season a fortnight ago against Chippa United, while he has also scored twice for the Buccaneers. Maela would get into most teams’ line-up in the Absa Premiership, so it makes perfect sense to put him in the Soweto Derby XI, considering Chiefs haven’t had anybody make the left-back position their own.After picking up an injury in the first half of the season, Ben Motshwari has picked himself up and regained his best form. In the games Motshwari missed, Pirates, picked up just one league win in six matches, underlining his importance to the team. Motshwari is the type of player who allows his teammates to express themselves while he anchors the midfield, proving how disciplined he is in holding his position – something many footballers struggle with, even at the highest level. Since his return from injury, Pirates have lost just once – against Kaizer Chiefs – so he’ll be hoping to find himself on the winning side again.
Another mainstay in the Orlando Pirates midfield has been Fortune Makaringe. Having taken his time to adjust to life at one of South Africa’s biggest clubs, the 26-year-old has slowly come to life at Pirates, taking his football to the next level since the appointment of Josef Zinnbauer as head coach. Makaringe is looking like the player he was at Maritzburg United and will again be a menacing threat against Chiefs in the derby this Saturday.
You’re reading this probably wondering where players like Thembinkosi Lorch and Khama Billiat are, but this season, they’ve been overshadowed – particularly by Lebogang Manyama, who looks like the player he was before he moved overseas, claiming the big individual accolades in his final season at Cape Town City. Manyama has contributed to 13 goals in the Absa Premiership, assisting his teammates eight times, while taking the onus upon himself to score on five occasions. Not everybody would agree on the same combined XI made up of players from both Chiefs and Pirates, but surely most people would find a way to fit Manyama in, considering what he’s done this season.
Yet another reason to omit Billiat and Lorch from the combined XI comes down to the form of Vincent Pule. The pacey left-footed wizard has been one of Pirates’ best attackers this campaign and is the club’s go-to man when opposing teams are too tough to break down. Pule also scored in the last Soweto derby, which proves that he’s more than capable of stepping up in the big games as well. His energy on and off the ball, coupled with his set-piece ability make him an easy inclusion.
After taking the league by storm and proving all of his doubters wrong, it’s only fair that Samir Nurkovic gets a striking role in our combined XI. His aerial abilities have given Kaizer Chiefs a new dimension in attack, while his footwork isn’t that bad either. Nurkovic has 11 league goals this season, more than any other player from open play and has scored in three of his last four league encounters, regaining his form ahead of the much-anticipated Soweto derby.
The combined line-up wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t feature Orlando Pirates’ Gabadinho Mhango. The Malawian international has been one of the standout players in the Absa Premiership and tops the goalscoring charts with 14 goals to his name. Mhango has been a lethal threat throughout the season and found the back of the net in the reverse fixture. From that reverse tie against Chiefs, Mhango has netted 12 times in 11 matches – so his form will certainly send shivers down the spines of the Amakhosi camp.