It is often said that when it comes to derby matches, prior form bears no relevance to what might unfold when two age-old rivals lock horns on the field of play.
Going into this weekend’s Soweto Derby against Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs coach, Arthur Zwane is drawing on his vast experience of this massive fixture to create the optimal conditions that will enable his players to come good when it matters most, on Saturday afternoon.
Speaking at a DStv press conference previewing the match, held at the Wanderers Club on Thursday, Zwane outlined some of the methods he employs to prepare for big games.
“There’s a lot at stake. Apart from the three points everyone knows what it means just to be part of the Derby,” he told the assembled media.
“We are gunning for the win. As someone who has played in Derbies, I conveyed to the players to ignore the noise happening around them and just focus on the game plan and the game itself, because if you focus on the noise now by the time the game comes, you are already tired before it starts. So, as a coach, I am trying to make sure the players stay away from what is happening off the field and concentrate on the game in the hope that we can grind out the result.
Naturally, Zwane expects that his team will need to dig deep to emerge victorious and emphasises the importance of making the decisive difference in the moment.
“Orlando Pirates are a quality side, especially going forward,” he said. “They have very dynamic players and you can see they have been together for some time. It is good for South African football and for the country to see them performing well because we want to test ourselves against the best in the country."
“Obviously, we have plans but we’re not going to talk about them here. At the end of the day, it will boil down to who produces the quality on the day.”
Zwane batted away suggestions that his position might be on the line should Chiefs suffer an unfavourable result, stating confidently, “As far as I know, I am the head coach of Kaizer Chiefs and I have always said that we, as a Club, have a plan and as much as it is important to try and win this game, I am not worried about my job or myself. The focus is on playing this game, making sure the players apply themselves correctly and I am there for them as the head coach of the Club.
Meanwhile, Amakhosi skipper Keagan Dolly, who was present alongside his coach, endorsed Zwane’s assertion that what matters is how they perform against Pirates on Saturday, regardless of the disappointment against Golden Arrows last week.
“What happened last week is in the past,” he said dismissively. “Our focus is on the big one this weekend. I think, for us as a Club and a team, we always want to win whenever we go onto the pitch no matter who we are playing against."
“I always say, we play Pirates twice a year but we must also play the other teams the way we perform against Pirates. Going into this game we just need to stick to our plan and try to get the three points because it’s not only about this game, it’s about the whole season.”
The team’s leader assured the Club’s deeply loyal fanbase that all the players are in the right frame of mind to meet the challenge awaiting them head-on.
“To all our supporters and everyone involved at the Club, we know what is at stake this weekend, us as players especially. It is the one game we know we go into knowing we don’t need any extra motivation. It’s a big game and we are going to be part of history. For us, it’s about applying ourselves properly and making the people happy. It starts with us on the field. If we stick to the game plan I believe we can win,” Dolly concluded.