AmaZulu’s An­tipas up­beat as he beefs up squad

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - KAM­LESH GOSAI

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.

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