After the draw was released last month, the fixture created a lot of vibe with football lovers across the social networks predicting what might happen in the fixture. While many Batswana believe that the national champions have the pedigree to outsmart the Soweto giants, some argue that the kind of form Chiefs displayed going into Christmas break is enough to scare Rollers.
When Rollers reported for duty this past week, the technical team knew it was important for them to address their players about the fixture. Rollers have to play four crucial League matches before they take on Amakhosi in the first leg tie which will be played in Johannesburg on February 14. The return leg will be played at the National Stadium in Gaborone on February 28.
Rollers’ manager Motshegetsi Mafa said the game comes at a time when they are hungry for success. But he pointed out that they will have to work extra hard to keep the boys focused. “All we need to do is to ensure that we psyche them up for the two-legged fixture. It is important that we do well in the away fixture. This game will be more like a cup final so the boys know that they need to work hard in the build-up,” said Mafa.
Rollers’ captain Maano Ditshupo said that since returning from the break, they have discussed a lot about their date against Amakhosi. “It is a fixture that everyone wants to play in. Obviously Chiefs are a big side but we’re going to compete with them. We respect them as a club but we’re not going to let them intimidate us. Our league has grown in leaps and bounds over the years and I’ve no doubt we’ll represent the country well,” said Ditshupo.
The talented midfielder pointed out that the fact that they are playing away in the first leg might work to their advantage. He said what is important for them is to get a result away in Johannesburg and finish off the tie in Gaborone. “If we can get a draw with goals away that would be nice. We know it is not going to be easy but I believe in the team we have here,” said Ditshupo.
Former Rollers’ captain Joel Mogorosi who now plies his trade at Bloemfontein Celtic in the South African Premier League has warned his former teammates not to be overawed by the occasion. He said that if Rollers’ players believe in themselves anything can happen. “All what they need to do is to go out there and enjoy themselves. This is one game which Rollers’ coach (Madinda Ndlovu) will have his job cut because there is no need to motivate his players. They know what to expect from Chiefs because they watch them on tv week in and out,” said Celtic captain.
At the same time, Mogorosi has warned Rollers not to get carried away in case they score against Chiefs. “Chiefs are a very strong side and they are dangerous when going forward. If you allow them a lot of space, they’ll punish you. So it is best they come to Johannesburg with a cautious approach,” said Mogorosi.
Former Extension Gunners winger Kopano ‘Computer’ Phakedi also believes that Rollers have the class to match their opponents. He believes that the gap between Botswana and South African football is not that much hence Rollers can go for the killer. “Rollers should stick to their game plan and if the technical team pick the right players for the match, I have no doubt that they can spring a surprise. The unfortunate part is that Kaizer Chiefs are on form but maybe the African Nations Cup break has affected them. In the end it is all about planning,” said Phakedi.
This is the second time Amakhosi come to Gaborone on African assignment, the first being in 1993 when they humiliated Extension Gunners 6-0 on aggregate. “I think at the time we envied South African players so much that we couldn’t believe that we were playing against them. Times have changed and I’ve no doubt that Rollers would rise to the occasion,” said Phakedi who was part of the Gunners’ team which faced Chiefs in 1993.
Rollers have a number of players who can win the game for them including former Mamelodi Sundowns Manqoba Ngwenya, Segolame Boy, Jerome Louis, Kobamelo Kebaikanye and the recently signed Jerome Ramatlhakwana. Ngwenya will not be new to most of the Chiefs players as he once faced them during his time at Bidvest Wits and Sundowns. Before the league went on recess, Ngwenya was in fine form scoring nine goals in 15 games. Though he has come in as a substitute in most of the games, his experience might come handy in this tie. The last time Rollers featured in the CAF Champions League, they were knocked out by Angolan side Petro Atletico in the Last 16.