Shots were fired early‚ though it was banter‚ by Kaizer Chiefs defender Ramahlwe Mphahlele at Orlando Pirates counterpart Happy Jele on Wednesday.
With Pirates and Chiefs in second and third place, respectively, in the Premiership, both sides are in form ahead of Saturday’s derby at FNB Stadium (kickoff: 3.30pm).
Mphahlele joked that Jele was lying when he repeated the line that Pirates have been sticking to in recent weeks that the Buccaneers‚ four points behind leaders Mamelodi Sundowns with eight games left‚ are not thinking about the title.
"We don’t think about winning the league. It’s all about trying to improve our game‚" Jele said. "Last season we did not do well‚ finishing in 12th. And we are still a work in progress.
"With the new coaches we have had this season there has been a lot to work on."
Mphahlele said that third-placed Chiefs‚ who are five points behind Sundowns‚ were definitely thinking about winning the title.
"Happy has just … lied to you because how can you be in position No2 and say that you are not thinking about [winning] the league?" Mphahlele said.
"What else are you thinking about when you are in No2? But we are in position three and we are trying to win the league. Let’s not beat about the bush.
"Maybe if Pirates are not trying to win the league they should bring their MDC [reserve] team [on Saturday]," he said.
"We know it’s difficult for the fans who come to fill FNB and then they get a draw. We are not going to throw everything into attack‚ but we will try to attack Orlando Pirates. We are going to try our best to win the game. I have not won with Chiefs against Orlando Pirates.
"I have won in the [pre-season] Black Label Cup‚ but that’s not an important game. I want to win in Woza Nazo [the league]."
• The hype around Saturday’s derby will be matched by the capacity crowd of about 88,000 fans at the FNB Stadium judging by the 70,000 tickets that had been sold by Wednesday.
Pirates media officer Thandi Merafe confirmed that everything seemed to be going according to plan regarding ticket sales and the logistics of the game, classified as one of SA’s biggest sporting spectacles.
"We are confident that this will be a sold-out game‚" Merafe said.
Stadium Management CEO Jacques Grobbelaar said the security systems in and around the stadium would be tight on Saturday and no one without a valid ticket will be allowed near the stadium precinct.
"We have private security‚ SAPS and JMPD who will be assisting us with security on the day," Grobbelaar said.
"Those who will be driving in without valid parking tickets won’t be allowed near the stadium," he added.
"We also urge all our fans to come early in order to avoid traffic and all the incidents that may occur close to kick-off when everyone is pushing‚ trying to get in‚" said Grobbelaar.
The league derby between these Soweto giants will be the 42nd since the Premier Soccer League was formed in 1996.
It will be a home match for Pirates.
The match in the first round, in October 2107, ended in a 0-0 draw. A total of 21 of the previous 41 matches also ended in stalemates.