Saturday, 31 October 2015

SOWETO DERBY: Tinkler reprieved... Komphela falls in to the Bobby trap

CHIEF CONCERN: Eric Tinkler joins in the Pirates celebrations on Saturday
JUST when you thought it was safe to write off South Africa’s greatest footballing rivalry, along comes a clash like Saturday’s fascinating four-goal affair at Soccer City.

The re-christened FNB Stadium wasn’t quite packed to the rafters, the hype wasn’t really there, Halloween made Kaizer Chiefs look like pumpkins and the first 20 minutes were, frankly, drivel.

But once Siya Sangweni had crushed stand-in centre-back Ivan Bukenya to pressure Itumeleng Khune in to a parry, Issa “Super” Sarr snapped up the rebound and the Soweto Derby finally had meaning again.

For Eric Tinkler, who works without a contract like the eternal caretaker, Tower Mathoho’s equaliser must have been like a dagger to the heart. A free header, his experienced defenders caught napping, 1-1 and all that hard work undone.

But there was no doubt who was dominant. Before the game, few game Tinkler’s men any chance against Chiefs, who would have gone top of the PSL for a couple of hours with a win. But they were dreadful on Saturday.

Despite inspiring the Buccaneers to the CAF Confederations Cup final with a win over might Al Ahly of Egypt, Tinkler has never had the whole-hearted support of the Ghost, even on Halloween.

Before the game, the nuggety midfielder who carved out a name for himself at the top level in Europe - which is more than any Bafana Bafana player can say these days - admitted he was under huge pressure.

With Screamer Tshabalala screaming and chairman Irvin Khoza apparently not interested, Tinkler couldn’t even find a willing volunteer for the captain’s armband after another morale sapping defeat against “sister club” Golden Arrows in midweek.

But somehow, even after Tower’s towering equaliser, Pirates fought their way back. As I said on radio and the social networks in the build-up, the Sea Robbers have become “big game hunters” in an endless season complicated by their continental crusade.

With only one win in their previous seven domestically, it was Ayanda Gcaba, once a promising rugby player, who rose to make it 2-1. And after fabulous work from Kermit Erasmus, Thami Gabuza was on hand to score the third and kill the game.

Tinkler, who had failed in both his previous efforts to usurp his arch-rivals, grinned afterwards: “For me, this was expected. I know what these lads can produce, and they’ve done it today. I’m very, very proud of them.

“Our tactical strategy worked fantastically well. There’s not a single player I can point at that didn't put in a solid performance.

“It's great to get a 3-1 win against Chiefs, but the truth of the matter is that we now need to turn our focus towards Ajax Cape Town, our next game.”

He’s right of course. Pirates aren’t out of trouble yet. They need to be contenders before the fans will stop their #tinklerout campaign. But at least they moved ahead of Gordon Igesund’s SuperSport United, which proves a point of some kind.

Suddenly the spotlight is on Steve Komphela, whose record against Pirates now reads played 12, won 2, drawn 2, lost 8. I said when Bobby Motaung dismantled his record-breaking championship machine last season, the urbane Komphela would be under too much pressure.

The loss of coach Stuart Baxter is not as serious as the shocking failure to give Tefu Mashamaite, last season’s PSL player of the year, a new contract. To play Bukenya, the ageless Ugandan midfielder, at centre-back, is to invite trouble. Quite what’s happened to Siyanda Xulu, who is now the best paid player in the PSL, nobody knows. An old injury? Back in training? But not ready for the derby? Curious.

And then there’s the other title winner they kicked out. Mandla Masango. Like MashaMIGHTY, he was forced to find a job in Scandinavia after Bobby and Chiefs refused him the pay rise he thought he deserved.

For those who have forgotten so quickly, Masango was the AmaKhosi’s top scorer in that title triumph last season. His ability to nick valuable goals from midfield is lost, George Lebese has been a capable stand-in but he appears to be carrying an injury of late.

All of which leaves Komphela, for all his flowery post-match interviews, in a bit of a hole. Instead of going top, they fall away and are lucky Bidvest Wits failed to win a couple of hours after the Soweto derby to extend their advantage with a game in hand.

Komphela blustered: “Pirates were a yard ahead of us. Each time we got the ball we lost it, and they were faster.

““We just need to go back and re-think what happened today. We lost it, we have to respond and congratulations to them.”

Not quite what the AmaKhosi wanted to hear as the Chiefs unbeaten record went up in smoke. But before the vast ranks of gold-and-black clad fans turn on Komphela, remember this: It was the “football manager” Bobby Motaung who opted to dismantle the championship squad. As I said at the time: there is only one man to blame.

Also worth a read on this issue:

How Khune was nearly Bobby trapped too:

Why Baxter REALLY left Kaizer Chiefs:


  1. Ageless Bukenya. Haha

  2. “big game hunters”

    great summarisation which is not good enough for a team like Pirates