Santos need to up­stage Stars to re­gain cred­i­bil­ity

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

SANTOS are look­ing to re­turn to some sem­blance of for m when they take on Plat­inum Stars in Rusten­burg this af­ter­noon (kick-off 3.30pm).

It hasn’t been the best of times for Santos of late.

Not only have they been far too con­ser­va­tive and de­fence­ori­en­tated in re­cent weeks, but they have also tum­bled down the PSL log. They are cur­rently in 10th spot, with 14 points from 10 games.

Their op­po­nents to­day, Plat­inum, are next best, in 11th po­si­tion, with 13 points from 10 games.

The dif­fer­ence – and the dan­ger – for Santos, how­ever, is that Plat­inum are an im­prov­ing team.

They started the sea­son badly, but since the re­turn of Owen da Gama as coach, their cam­paign has grad­u­ally gained mo­men­tum.

And in Plat­inum’s strong­hold to­day – the Royal Bafo­keng Sports Palace – Santos can ex­pect a tor­rid time in­deed from the home side.

The other Cape side, Vasco da Gama, is in ac­tion to­mor­row af­ter noon, when they face Bloemfontein Celtic in the Free State cap­i­tal.

The big ques­tion there is just how well Vasco will go with­out sus­pended striker Sibu­siso Zuma.

Zuma is sus­pended af­ter pick­ing up three yel­low cards.

There are a few other in­ter­est­ing fix­tures on the week­end’s PSL pro­gramme, the penul­ti­mate be­fore the Christ­mas re­cess.

Gor­don Ige­sund’s new club, Moroka Swal­lows, look to con­tinue their at­tempt to move away from the rel­e­ga­tion zone when they host Or­lando Pi­rates in Dob­sonville to­day (kick-of f 3.30pm), while, tonight, Kaizer Chiefs try to get their fal­ter­ing league cam­paign back on track against Bid­vest Wits in Polok­wane (kick-off 8.15pm).

Ige­sund re­placed Ger­man coach Rainer Zo­bel last month.

In his de­but as Swal­lows coach, Ige­sund’s men re­turned with a hard fought 1-1 draw over Santos in Cape Town last Fri­day night – and it would ap­pear that al­ready his in­flu­ence on the play­ers is ev­i­dent and bear­ing fruit.

“Gor­don has been like a breath of fresh air,” said Birds cap­tain Lefa Tsut­sulupa.

“He is a straight talk­ing coach; one that the play­ers ap­pre­ci­ate and re­spect. We know where we stand with him and what he wants and ex­pects from the play­ers.”

Tsut­sulupa said his team­mates would have added in­cen­tive to beat Pi­rates and record their first win of the sea­son.

“Pi­rates beat us in the MTN8 fi­nal and our slide started af­ter that de­feat in Dur­ban,” he said.

“We aim to set the record straight and it’s the per­fect game for us to get our first win and start climb­ing off the foot of the ta­ble.”

Ige­sund said his team would be pos­i­tive and promised they would at­tack Pi­rates.

“There is no quick fix to Swal­lows’ prob­lems, but beat­ing Pi­rates would go a long way in res­ur­rect­ing the side. I am con­fi­dent we can sur­prise,” Ige­sund said.

Mean­while Chiefs need to change their mind­set – and fast, too, said Amakhosi coach Vladimir Ver­me­zovic.

He ad­mit­ted he was wor­ried about his side los­ing to so­called smaller teams. Chiefs re­cently lost to Santos, Vasco da Gama and Free State Stars.

In­be­tween, they scored back-to-back wins in the league and Telkom Knock­out Cup fi­nal over their arch-ri­vals Pi­rates.

“I do not know what is go­ing on in the play­ers’ minds,” said Ver­me­zovic. “How­ever, there is a prob­lem and I need to fix it.”

Chiefs face a tough clash against a young Wits side and Ver­me­zovic needs to get his side in the right frame of mind.

He said he had been dis­ap­pointed with some of the play­ers’ at­ti­tudes af­ter win­ning the cup fi­nal by beat­ing Pi­rates 3-1 ear­lier this month at the FNB Sta­dium.

“For some, win­ning the cup is enough, but for me it is not enough. I do not like los­ing and I want to bring back Chiefs’ killer in­stinct against Wits,” he said.

“Why can we do it against Pi­rates, but not against Stars and Vasco?

“I re­alise that it is the cul­ture of South Africa fans that beat­ing Pi­rates twice is good and ev­ery­one is happy, but not me... I want con­sis­tency and to win the league.

“We can­not do that if we keep los­ing at home. We dropped six points – against Vasco and Santos – and need to close the seven-point gap be­tween our­selves and lead­ers Mamelodi Sun­downs. – Sports Staff and Sapa

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