AmaZulu’s Antipas upbeat as he beefs up squad
THE promotion puzzle AmaZulu have been trying to figure out appears to be coming together as the final pieces are added.
When the second half of the campaign gets under way with a trip to University of Pretoria on February 11, Durban’s sleeping giants should be at full strength and raring to go under fired-up coach Joey Antipas, pictured.
The Zimbabwean returned from the mid-season holiday break well-rested after a challenging first round in his debut season in South Africa.
He survived a four-match losing streak, coupled with several clashes involving administrative and playing personnel, and bounced back to close the first half with a 6-1 thumping of Milano United.
Now almost two weeks into the mini-pre-season, and armed with greater knowledge of the finer workings of the promotion league, Antipas is excited about kicking on from where they left off. Placed fourth with 23 points from 15 matches, Usuthu are nine adrift of leaders Thanda Royal Zulu and well positioned to take at least one of the two play-off positions.
The league winners earn automatic promotion, and the second and third-placed sides enter a play-off with the team that finish second-bottom in the Absa Premiership.
AmaZulu roped in former Black Leopards forward Roggert Nyundu before the break, along with Zimbabwean defender Steven Makatuka, who arrived from CAPS United where he won the league in December. That was AmaZulu’s major shopping done well in advance, early enough to get the newcomers acclimatised to Antipas’s system.
“We are still looking to bring in a few new faces into the squad, but not too many because then you have a problem establishing combinations. In defence the recruitment of Steven Makatuka will give us muchneeded depth as he’s an experienced campaigner in the backline,” said Antipas.
The newcomers replace axed defender Alan Robertson and striker Siphesihle Nzimande. In addition, the coach welcomes back from injury several regulars, among them Gabonese international defender Stevy Nzambe, Ghanaian midfielder Samuel Darpoh and captain Tapelo Nyongo.
“The boys are looking in good shape in terms of sharpness which is very positive. We will continue working hard to reach the level we were at last year. We’re hoping everyone is ready to fight for the jersey,” said the disciplinarian. “The good thing is that players who were injured have all recovered. We will have a full squad to choose from,” he added.