AFTER some disappointing outings for Kaizer Chiefs this season, striker Samir Nurkovic is hoping to bounce back in a grand manner by helping the Glamour Boys to a win over arch-rivals Orlando Pirates in the 100th Soweto Derby on Sunday.
Last season Nurkovic was the toast of Chiefs, inspiring the side to a top two finish. He scored 14 goals and registered six assists in 31 domestic appearances for the club.
In his second campaign at Amakhosi, the big Serb has only contributed one goal and managed three assists in 15 matches in all competitions. Unlike last term, though, he missed the pre-season and better part of the first half of the term due to injury.
“It was a difficult time for me during the start of the season because I missed a lot of games and when I came back, I didn’t go through the pre-season but I had to go straight into the game. But I am trying my best to get to where I was before,” he said.
There would be no better place and time for Nurkovic to get his rhythm and form back than at home, the FNB Stadium, when they host rivals Pirates. Nurkovic has played in three derbies, winning one, drawing one and losing one.
However, he’s yet to score against Pirates and, he missed the penalty that would have drawn them level when they last met Pirates during their 2-1 loss at the Orlando Stadium late in January.
“It’s every player’s dream to score in the Derby,” Nurkovic said, as he reflected on that penalty miss. “But it’s a big difference to play with and without the supporters. They’ve always been our 12th player on the field and we really miss them.”
Nurkovic, though, is willing to make up for lost time and more, saying: “I am working hard and hopefully Sunday will be my day. I am happy that I am finally back and helping the team. I am not frustrated but I have to continue working hard.”
Chiefs, though, will not only need Nurkovic to step up to the plate against Pirates but the overall match-day squad and technical team have a job to do. Amakhosi have lost to Pirates three times this season, twice in the MTN8 and once in the league.
That poor run has put a strain on their silverware aspirations and even on their aspirations to finish in the top eight. Chiefs are an embarrassing 11th on the standings and 16 points behind the third-placed Pirates.
But with form not counting when it comes to the Soweto Derby – with the two teams in contrasting patches after Pirates won their midweek continental football match, while Chiefs were held to a draw – Nurkovic says they’ll still be extra motivated come Sunday.
“We are trying to stay positive all the time, especially the senior players, because, as you already know, there are many young players in the team,” he said. “Our full focus is on the next game. And every game needs to be extra motivated.
“It’s a big and special game.”