JOHANNESBURG – Kaizer Chiefs coach Gavin Hunt had a lump in his throat after his troops again came unstuck against arch rivals Orlando Pirates, further disrupted the momentum they were starting to pick up this year.
Having been an admirer of the Soweto Derby from a distance during spells at SuperSport United and Bidvest Wits, Hunt finally got his chance to sit in the dugout during one of the country’s most prominent sport contests after signing for Chiefs in September.
But the 56-year-old coach has failed to defeat his rivals in three successive attempts, losing twice in the MTN8 semifinals before a 2-1 Premiership loss at a wet Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
Heading into this encounter, Chiefs were in fine form after bagging 11 points out of a possible 15, while Bucs had only collected eight. This feat was starting to convince the Amakhosi faithful that their beloved team had turned the corner after a poor start.
But goals by Thembinkosi Lorch and Siphesihle Ndlovu for Pirates in either half appear to have broken Chiefs’ momentum in their bid to close in on the pacesetters at the halfway mark of the league campaign.
“Of course it’s a step back. Every time we lose a game of football, it’s a step backwards – points wise and morale wise. We’ll need to get them back up again, but we’ll go again,” said Hunt, who was still impressed with his team’s outing.
Despite Pirates claiming the first bragging rights of the year, Chiefs had the most scoring opportunities, especially during the first half. But they were let down by their finishing as central midfielder Daniel Cardoso only scored their consolation goal with five minutes to spare.
For the first time in almost a month, Chiefs will get some time off this week before turning their focus to the Nedbank Cup where they host Glad-Africa Championship side Richards Bay at FNB Stadium on Sunday.
“No, not at all (the hype of the Derby doesn’t get to the players). If you understand the ‘no football rule’ you’ll know the (advantages). But sometimes football doesn’t work like that. We’ve got some time off, so we’ve got to go back and try to work on a few things,” Hunt said.
With league leaders Mamelodi Sundowns well ahead of Chiefs, the latter’s only realistic chance to claim silverware lies in South Africa’s premier knockout competition.
The encounter against Richards Bay will offer some game-time to players returning from injuries and those on the fringes.
But for midfielder Nkosingiphile Ngcobo it will be an opportunity to regain Hunt’s trust after an underwhelming performance in the Derby that saw him substituted at half-time.
“It was not an injury concern. It was not his type of game, I thought. It was proven right. It was one-way traffic in the second half (after the introduction of Happy Mashiane). We changed the shape and it was much better, although it was a little bit wet,” Hunt said.