Itumeleng Khune is one of the important members of the current Kaizer Chiefs squad, but he will have to watch from the stands when his teammates take to the field against Orlando Pirates.
The 31-year-old goalkeeper has hardly missed a Soweto Derby match since making his professional debut in 2007.
He boasts over 25 Soweto Derby appearances as a professional footballer, and while he has missed matches against the Sea Robbers before, the majority of fans feel that this 166th match between the two Soweto giants will be difficult for Amakhosi without Khune.
Amakhosi’s goalkeeping problems are well-documented, especially after Khune was sidelined with a long-term injury.
Virgil Vries, who was signed at the beginning of the season, stepped in to fill Khune’s shoes, but he has often struggled in his attempt to help Chiefs win matches.
This prompted Chiefs to go into the market and buy Daniel Akpeyi from Chippa United soon before the closing of the January transfer window.
Akpeyi faced Pirates many times before, but without Khune, Chiefs’ goalkeeping department looks very thin ahead of Saturday’s encounter.
However, looking back at the Soweto Derby matches which Khune missed since 2007, it is evident that Chiefs will not miss the services of Mzansi’s No.1.
Khune missed no less than six Soweto Derby matches across all competitions since his first match against the Buccaneers which ended in a 2-2 in Durban over a decade ago.
Of those six matches which Chiefs played without Khune, the Naturena-based outfit lost just one, drawing one and winning four using different goalkeepers, who at the time served as back-ups.
In October 2009, Chiefs faced Pirates with Arthur Bartman in between the sticks. The match ended in a goalless draw.
Bartman then left the Glamour Boys after the 2010 Fifa World Cup tournament, and Chiefs had to find someone to compete with Khune.
Almost five years later, Khune suffered an injury setback on the eve of 2014 edition of the Soweto Derby.
Reyaad Pieterse was then given the chance by Stuart Baxter and Chiefs won that match 1-0 at the FNB Stadium.
Pieterse’s performance on the day proved vital and Chiefs looked set to continue with him in Khune’s absence.
However, Baxter opted to go with Brilliant Khuzwayo in the 2014 MTN8 final against Bucs at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Again, Chiefs beat Pirates 1-0, this time to lift the trophy at the expense of their nemesis.
Khuzwayo then went on to feature against Pirates in December 2014 (league) and November 7, 2015 (Telkom Knockout Cup semi-finals) respectively.
Again, Amakhosi won both matches without Khune to further send a statement that they don’t really depend on the South Africa international to beat their arch-rivals.
The only time Pirates beat Chiefs without Khune was in March 2016 when Tendai Ndoro single-handedly destroyed them in the second round of the Nedbank Cup.
This simply means Amakhosi players raise their game whenever they know that Khune isn’t available for selection for various reasons, and it could be enough motivation for them to end Pirates’ dominance even without their injured skipper.