Early sea­son top spot beck­ons

The Star Early Edition - - AUCTIONS - KAMLESH GOSAI

GO­ING by the re­sults of Or­lando Pi­rates and Mar­itzburg United last sea­son and the pre­vi­ous cam­paign re­spec­tively, many sup­port­ers would be sur­prised to find these sides con­tend­ing for the top spot in the Absa Pre­mier­ship.

That’s the sce­nario head­ing into tonight’s fourth round of league ac­tion. The win­ner be­tween Mar­itzburg and Pi­rates at Harry Gwala Sta­dium will sit at the sum­mit come the end of the week­end’s full pro­gramme. While it is early days, the sight of Pi­rates atop the stand­ings would raise eye­brows af­ter their 11th place fin­ish last term. The Team of Choice on the other hand en­joyed their high­est fin­ish of sev­enth place in 2016/17, and are en­joy­ing the mo­men­tum of that dis­play, al­though the pre­vi­ous sea­son they avoided rel­e­ga­tion on the fi­nal day. Such is the un­pre­dictabil­ity of the South African top flight. This clash is equally tough to make a call on, es­pe­cially with the home team look­ing to make up to nine changes to stay fresh fol­low­ing a tight sched­ule of league and cup play. Mar­itzburg go into this game af­ter get­ting knocked out of the MTN8 in the semi-fi­nal sec­ond leg last week­end, fol­lowed by Tues­day night’s 1-1 draw in the KwaZulu-Natal derby against AmaZulu. “I will have to prob­a­bly make eight to nine changes against Pi­rates to re­fresh the squad be­cause we had three games in six days be­fore the FIFA break and now three in six days again,” said Mar­itzburg coach Fadlu Davids. “We’ve got fan­tas­tic boys in the Diski side and def­i­nitely some of them will come into the Pi­rates game.” It is in fact three matches in seven days for the Mid­lands men on ei­ther side of the in­ter­na­tional break. For the mid­week out­ing Ghana­ian goal­keeper Richard Ofori made his PSL de­but, and chances are he will re­tain his jer­sey af­ter Davids ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion with the “pres­ence” and “lead­er­ship” pro­vided. De­spite their bright start Davids was dis­ap­pointed with their cup exit and the dropped points in Dur­ban, sit­u­a­tions he was con­fi­dent the young squad will learn from. “It’s a hard les­son for our young team to take. But how do you gain ex­pe­ri­ence as young play­ers? By mak­ing mis­takes, hope­fully learn­ing from it and not mak­ing them again. “You have to teach them, coach them, show them on the video, on the train­ing ground, tac­ti­cal, at­tack­ing sit­u­a­tions and move­ments, de­fen­sive struc­tures. It’s a process, they will learn game by game, from every ex­pe­ri­ence they will learn and get bet­ter.”

If the ex­pected changes work well, then Davids ex­pects the team to main­tain their high tempo style against the Buc­ca­neers tonight.

“We were fa­tigued af­ter the ef­fects of the semi­fi­nal, but in the sec­ond half (against AmaZulu) we were back at full throt­tle. That sec­ond half per­for­mance I think we can main­tain if we make the changes for Pi­rates. It’s go­ing to be an end to end en­counter - they don’t de­fend, we don’t de­fend, so it will be an open game with re­ally high in­ten­sity,” promised the young coach.

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