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Kaizer Chiefs coach, Arthur Zwane. Picture: Veli Nhlapo
Kaizer Chiefs coach, Arthur Zwane. Picture: Veli Nhlapo

Kaizer Chiefs’ quest to end their frustrating eight-year trophy drought continues when they face arch-rivals Orlando Pirates in the semifinal of the Nedbank Cup at the FNB Stadium on Saturday (kickoff 3pm). 

Pirates go into the game as the Premier Soccer League’s (PSL’s) form team. The Buccaneers, who are brimming with confidence, are unbeaten in their last nine league and cup games so they go into the latest edition of the Soweto Derby as favourites against their great rivals who have stumbled badly over the past month.

During that time Chiefs coach Arthur Zwane’s side lost to Sekhukhune United and Swallows FC while winning only twice, against struggling Chippa United and via a penalty shoot-out against Royal AM in the quarterfinals.   

When it comes to big games like the Soweto Derby, however, logic is turned on its head — as Chiefs proved when they beat Pirates at the end of February to extend their winning run against the Buccaneers to five games. It’s worth bearing in mind that, similar to going into that league game, Chiefs’ form was also poor as they had won only two of their seven games before that encounter. 

With their hopes of claiming the coveted runner-up spot in the league reduced to being one of a slim mathematical variety, Chiefs’ only hope of salvaging something from yet another frustrating campaign is to lift the Nedbank Cup. This should make them dangerous opponents for a Pirates side that’s aiming to add another piece of silverware to their trophy cabinet that has already been boosted by the MTN8 Cup they won in November. 

Zwane, who is under pressure from the club’s success-starved fans, is happy to embrace the tag of underdog as a way of taking pressure off his team, who will have to do without injured star attacker Keagan Dolly.   

“We all know that games like these are difficult for everyone. They are also unpredictable so as things stand Orlando Pirates are doing very well.  We are coming into this game as underdogs so the only thing that is left for us is to believe in ourselves and to go to FNB Stadium with one thing on our minds, to keep going and give our best and make sure we come out victorious,” he told the media this week. 

Pirates coach Jose Riveiro, mindful of the magnitude of Saturday’s game, took the liberty of resting key players such as Monnapule Saleng, Tapelo Xoki, Thabang Monare and Terrence Dzvukamanja who were all on the bench for Wednesday’s drawn league encounter against Royal AM. Saleng and Monare came on as second half substitutes while Dzvukumanja and Xoki were wrapped in cotton wool in preparation for the semifinal. 

In the other semifinal Steve Barker will be aiming to reach the final of the competition for the second time when his Stellenbosch side host Sekhukhune United in what should be a closely fought battle at the Danie Craven Stadium on Sunday (kickoff 6pm). 

Barker of course, guided a young University of Pretoria, who were playing in the National First Division at the time, to the final of the 2009 Nedbank Cup where they lost to Moroka Swallows. 

Stellies, who eliminated holders and favourites Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarterfinal, start favourites, particularly with star striker Iqraam Rayners set to return after missing Tuesday’s goalless draw against former club SuperSport United because of a clause in his transfer contract. 

The 27-year-old striker has netted an eye-popping 15 goals in 11 league and cup appearances since returning to the club at the end of the January transfer window and he will have to be shackled by the Babina Noko defence if they are to have any chance of eliminating the home side.  

Three of the previous four meetings between the two sides have ended in 1-1 stalemates though Brandon Truter’s side will take a psychological advantage into the game having beaten Stellies 1-0 at the Danie Craven Stadium in their last meeting on January 14.  

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