The Citizens hold a proud record against their Pretoria rivals, having gone unbeaten in 90 minutes in their five previous meetings – their last encounter was September’s MTN8 final in which City emerged victorious on penalties after a goalless draw, having already beaten Matsatsantsa 2-0 in the league on the opening day of the season.
Saturday’s showdown will however garner a lot more interest from neutral fans, who will be keen to see if City’s new signing Erasmus will take to the field.
The 28-year-old was unveiled almost four weeks ago, and is now fully registered and available to take to the field for his new club in their first encounter of the new year.
No stranger to PSL football, having previously turned out for SuperSport and Orlando Pirates in the past, Erasmus has knowledge of the local game, but knows he has a lot to prove after a forgettable time abroad since leaving the Buccaneers three years ago.
After switching Mayfair for French top-flight club Stade Rennes, the forward failed to live up to his billing, scoring no goals in the 11 opportunities he received to play for the Ligue 1 outfit, while netting just once in his half-year loan move to second-tier club Lens. After being released last January, he endured unsuccessful spells at Swedish Second Division side AFC Eskilstuna and Portuguese top-flight club Vitoria Setubal, were he made just one substitute appearance, making his record over the last three years read 43 matches (including reserve team encounters), 4 goals.
New club City have enjoyed a relative scoring resurgence of late, netting 12 goals in their last six matches, while scoring three goals in a match in three of those fixtures – October’s 3-0 win over AmaZulu was the first time the side had scored three goals in a match in 53 games.
The goals have been spread across various players in the team, with Siphelele Mthembu leading his team’s scoring charts with five goals, closely followed by Ayanda Patosi on four.
This then begs the question: where will Erasmus fit in?
Patosi is no doubt the constant in the City line-up, having started 11 of the 14 league games played so far this season, with Mthembu picked from the start on seven occasions and Matthew Rusike starting six matches. The latter, while also recently injured, last ran on from the start at the beginning of October, with his two league goals in eight appearances in total failing to flatter.
With Nana Akosah-Bempah out of favour and Tokelo Rantie on the verge of departure, it seems that Rusike would be the player sacrificed, with Erasmus offering much more as a secondary striker with his pace, technical ability and skill.
Coach Benni McCarthy has in recent games experimented with Patosi alone up front in a false nine position, with the likes of Teko Modise, Thabo Nodada and Roland Putsche flooding the midfield and providing the options just behind him. Adequately equipped with wide men such as Surprise Ralani, Craig Martin, Riyaad Norodien and Gift Links, Erasmus could replace Modise in that system, operating in tandem with Patosi while Nodada and Putsche do the dirty work behind.
What seems likely for now is that the 14-time capped Bafana Bafana forward will possibly feature on the bench and be gradually introduced to the fray, with his knowledge of local football, combined with an almost month-long training and preparation period with his new teammates, working in his favour.
After a testing time abroad, and having last featured for the national team in June 2017, many are hoping Erasmus’s return to the PSL will be a success, not only for himself and his club, but for the betterment of South African football at large.