Early season top spot beckons
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.