Monday, 26 August 2013

A little bit of Knowledge goes a long way: How the Soweto derby was won - and lost

Gaining Knowledge: Kaizer Motaung and Stuart
Baxter give on-loan Musona his No11 shirt

It is a well known fact that a lack of Knowledge can cause a person all kinds of problem in life. Just ask Stuart Baxter.

On Saturday, with 80,000 people at Soccer City looking over his shoulder, the Kaizer Chiefs coach decided he could do without the on-loan Zimbabwean Knowledge Musona in his starting line-up against Soweto rivals Orlando Pirates.

There is no way Baxter or his AmaKhosi could legislate for a superb kick from the rejuventated Daine Klate after 12 minutes. There is no way the first foreign coach to win the PSL in his first year could have predicted such a strong start from Roger de Sa's Buccaneers either.

But what Baxter COULD and SHOULD have done, is start with a more positive attitude.

I spoke to Stuart last Thursday on my football show Bollockz. At the time, we agreed his three musketeers - Musona, Bernard Parker and Leohlonolo Majoro might all start in the first leg of the MTN8 semi-final.

It was an exciting debate about options: "I've started with all three, I've started with two of them, we have alternatives."

But perhaps I overlooked the bit where Baxter, by his nature a conservative man, said: "It's the first leg, you have to box cagily. You don't want to concede goals."

Despite lengthy chats with all involved in the Soweto Derby in the build-up, I was as surprised as anybody to see Musona left out of the starting line-up. I was not surprised about the Pirates team - Roger de Sa warned me on Friday night that long-term injury Siya Sangweni, though back in training, would not make it for the big game.

That was something of a relief. The last Soweto derby Sangweni played in - with a knee injury sustained during last year's African Cup of Nations - ended 0-0 but the man with a cattle farm near Richards Bay has taken over six months to recover.

In the midfield, Andile Jali failed his late fitness test after ankle and groin injuries but that didn't really concern me. I'd spoken to Legohonolo Maselesa before the game. For a 20-year-old, the former Wits Clever Boy was completely unfazed about playing in his first Soweto Derby.

What was it he said? "Neal, I'm not living the dream. I'm very lucky to be playing for Orlando Pirates, but I have a lot of improving to do before we can talk about living the dream!"

But as he did the week before when he came on for Jali in the 4-1 win over Egyptian giants Zamalek, South Africa's Vieira simply glided through his first Bucca v AmaKhosi clash, running his socks off with Sox, denying Yeye, Shabba and Parker before picking up the man of the match award.

Incredible stuff for a young lad who simply has everything it takes to make it, both here and in Europe.

But ultimately this was not about the battle of the midfield, nor about Senzo Meyiwa and Itumeleng Khune, described to me before the game by Mark Fish as "the best two goalkeepers in Africa".

This was about Stuart forgetting to throw caution to the win in the first leg at home. This was about Roger De Sa, who has been haunted by an unhappy Ghost for so long, finally getting the upper hand.

I've counted NINE matches where De Sa has come up against Chiefs and failed to grasp the victory he has so long deserved. This time he relished it, grinning: "My captain Lucky Lekgwathi is a legend, he gets better with age! Oupa Manyisa and Sifiso Myeni were magnificent with Vieira. I'm very proud of my lads."

And while Baxter insisted: "Musona wouldn't have done any better in the first half," we all saw the improvement the Zimbabwean striker made when he came on at half-time.

I'm afraid in this instance, a little Knowledge was not quite dangerous enough. He remains a shadow of the striker who left here for Germany as South Africa's top scorer - but his ability, touch and reputation were sorely missed in the first half.

We have to wait a painfully long month for the second legs of the MTN8 semi-finals. I daren't touch on Platinum Stars whopping Wits in the Sunday semi as Gavin Hunt will have my guts for garters. But I can say this to AmaKhosi fans: "Knowledge is power."
BOLLOCKZ! my show on, airs every Thursday from 10am-noon. The full interview is on video below.
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