Sainz ex­tends his Dakar lead, while Sun­der­land crashes out

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SPA­NIARD Car­los Sainz ex­tended his Dakar Rally lead with a sec­ond stage win in five days yes­ter­day while Bri­tain’s Sam Sun­der­land, mo­tor­cy­cle cham­pion in 2017, crashed out in the Saudi desert.

Sainz, a two-times Dakar win­ner, fin­ished al­most three min­utes ahead of clos­est ri­val and de­fend­ing cham­pion Nasser Al-at­tiyah to forge five min­utes and 59 sec­onds clear of the Qatari.

French driver Stephane Peter­hansel, a record 13-times Dakar win­ner on two wheels and four, was third over­all but nearly 18 min­utes be­hind Mini team­mate Sainz.

“We gained three min­utes, it was not easy, we had to push re­ally hard at the end,” said Sainz, who also won the third stage in his buggy on Tues­day.

“I’m happy, the car is work­ing fine. We got a punc­ture at the be­gin­ning but we man­aged to come back.”

Al-at­tiyah said the route from Al Ula to Ha’il had been bet­ter for bug­gies than his Toy­ota Hilux pickup but “we did what was nec­es­sary to avoid any prob­lems.

“We had a flat tyre five kilo­me­tres be­fore the fin­ish, but we pre­ferred to carry on with­out chang­ing the wheel. It was more camel grass than real dunes. I think we will see real dunes next week,” he added.

In the mo­tor­cy­cle cat­e­gory, Aus­tralia’s de­fend­ing cham­pion, Toby Price, won the day’s 564km stage af­ter KTM team­mate Sun­der­land re­tired. Or­gan­is­ers said the Dubai-based 30-year-old had hurt his back and left shoul­der in a fall at the 187km mark but was quickly at­tended to and had not lost con­scious­ness.

Sun­der­land had led the rally, be­ing held in the Mid­dle East for the first time af­ter a decade in South Amer­ica, af­ter the sec­ond stage and was fastest on Wed­nes­day be­fore in­cur­ring a five-minute penalty for speed­ing in a neu­tralised sec­tion.

Price be­came this year’s first dou­ble-stage win­ner but Amer­i­can

THE RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY of hav­ing to guide Kaizer Chiefs back to the pin­na­cle of South African foot­ball doesn’t give coach Ernst Mid­den­dorp sleep­less nights, but the Ger­man men­tor con­forms to thor­ough plan­ning on match­day eve.

Fol­low­ing the ro­bust cel­e­bra­tory scenes that erupted at FNB Sta­dium on Wed­nes­day night as Chiefs cel­e­brated their 50th an­niver­sary – in front of a crowd of 40 000 – many couldn’t help but won­der “what it would be like if Chiefs were to be cham­pi­ons at the end of the sea­son?”.

This fol­lows af­ter Amakhosi went about their busi­ness dili­gently – al­most vy­ing to give the mil­lions of faith­ful around the con­ti­nent some­thing to fur­ther cheer about.

Chiefs are the most suc­cess­ful club in South African foot­ball, hav­ing amassed 93 do­mes­tic tro­phies – of­fi­cial and un­of­fi­cial.

On Wed­nes­day, Mid­den­dorp and his men added fire to the mile­stone cel­e­bra­tions, pulling off an im­pres­sive 3-0 win over High­lands Park as they ex­tended their lead at the sum­mit of the Pre­mier­ship to 38 points, six ahead of de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Mamelodi Sun­downs in sec­ond place.

But with 14 matches be­fore

Ricky Brabec, on a Honda, ex­tended his over­all lead to nine min­utes over the Aus­tralian.

“It’s been a good day. We pushed hard at the start, made some good ways and then I caught up with the Honda boys. Ricky and them were in front, but it’s been a good stage,” said Price.

“It’s ac­tu­ally the first time I’ve rid­den with a whole big group, so it was quite en­joy­able but at the end of the day they are com­pet­i­tive, so we need to stay in front of them. We’re happy with the day and we’ll see how day six goes now.”

The rally fin­ishes in Qid­diya on Jan­uary 17. the cur­tain comes down on the do­mes­tic sea­son, it is too early to tell whether Chiefs will bag their record 13th league ti­tle come May.

How­ever, one thing for sure is that Mid­den­dorp is leav­ing no stone un­turned, work­ing tire­lessly to en­sure that his team keeps im­prov­ing.

“My sleep­ing habits are quite nor­mal. But of course, be­fore each and ev­ery game, I don’t sleep too much – re­search­ing and look­ing at the pos­si­ble op­tions in the squad: what we need to do in terms of tac­ti­cal el­e­ments,” he said.

Grabbed

“If this (hunger) is not there any­more as coaches, where we need to have a cer­tain area of be­ing ner­vous and be­ing grabbed into the en­vi­ron­ment (then we need to stop coach­ing). And if I don’t have that any­more, I can promise you, I’ll stop coach­ing im­me­di­ately.

“I haven’t (lost it).”

Prov­ing that plan­ning yields the re­sults, Mid­den­dorp rewrote the his­tory books in the first half of the sea­son, be­com­ing the first ever coach to win the Absa Pre­mier­ship Coach of the Month ac­co­lade three times in a row, be­tween Au­gust and De­cem­ber.

Speak­ing af­ter each award,

Mid­den­dorp cred­ited the work that had been put in by his play­ing per­son­nel and tech­ni­cal team.

But in the big­ger scheme of things, though, many would ar­gue that his sub­or­di­nates and troops ad­hered to what he pre­sented on match-day.

Against the Lions of the North, the Ger­man men­tor cre­ated an un­ortho­dox block, start­ing with four in­field mid­field­ers – Wil­lard Kat­sande and Ge­orge Maluleka be­hind Kearyn Bac­cus and Le­bo­gang Manyama – in­stead of the di­a­mond that has wingers.

“That’s why your sleep­ing days get shorter one or two days (be­fore the match), be­cause you try to fig­ure out what needs to be done,” Mid­den­dorp said in his post-match anal­y­sis on Wed­nes­day night.

“It was im­por­tant to cre­ate some­thing where we feel com­fort­able with the play­ers that we have avail­able. I think the move­ment was drag­ging the op­pos­ing play­ers to cer­tain di­rec­tions, stretch­ing them to here and there – hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal.

“We had a clear idea of the way we wanted to do things.”

Mid­den­dorp and his men will be hop­ing to close off what’s been an event­ful week with full points when they wel­come Cape Town City to FNB Sta­dium on Sun­day (3:30pm).

Pic­ture: Itume­leng English African News Agency(ana)

STILL ON TRACK: Kaizer Chiefs player Siphokazi Ntiya-ntiya bat­tles for the ball with High­lands Park’s Sphiwe Mahlangu dur­ing Wed­nes­day evening’s match.

Pic­ture: EPA/EFE An­dré Pain

Span­ish Car­los Sainz (Bahrain JCW X-raid Team) and his co-pilot Lu­cas Cruz in ac­tion dur­ing stage five of the Rally Dakar.

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