Downs Kick Off Season With Tricky Outing10/Aug/2017 13:37
Twice, Maritzburg United have derailed the African champions in their quest for the league championship by either beating them, or drawing against them (twice in the last campaign, when they drew 1-1 in the first round and led for most of the game before Yannick Zakri snatched a draw with a brace in their 2-2 draw in the second round.)
Yet, there cannot be a draw this time round. One must die, and for the Tshwane Giants, losing is not an option.
While the Lucas Moripe Stadium has not been a happy hunting ground for the Brazilians in the last season, they intend to change that around this season. They will still be fighting on several fronts, in knock out competitions and league in domestic campaigns, and pushing to make it beyond the quarter finals in the Confederation of African Football Champions League.
The good news is that they have had three weeks of total rest, the first break they had after a run of more than fifty matches on the trot, including not having a break and pre-season preparations last year.
This year, they have had the luxury of a break. And, following a camp in Rustenburg, the side would be refreshed and ready for the new challenge.
But they will know that Maritzburg are no pushovers. They will be without their talisman Kurt Lentjies, who has joined Chippa United in the off season. He was one of the most influential players on the pitch, and it all rubbed off on the rest of the team. But they still have Deolin Mekoa, and Evans Rusike, whose goal scoring prowess has made him a wanted striker. Brian Onyango has also showed great defensive play and attacking prowess in set pieces. He scored the first goal against Mamelodi Sundowns in the 2-2 draw, heading in a corner by Mekoa to beat Kennedy Mweene.
But while Maritzburg have given the Brazilians a rough time generally, the Tshwane side has beaten them 14 times, so will know that they can beat the Kwazulu Natal side.
Coach Pitso Mosimane will be happy that he had more than two weeks to prepare for Maritzburg this time round. He would desire nothing better than demonstrating why he is the top coach in Africa, and he will have spent hours poring over video recordings of their previous clashes. With his brains trust also having a fresh perspective, and the opportunity to knock new combinations into shape, fans can expect their favorite side to show what they will bring into the new season.
They will certainly be better prepared for the rigors of continental competition and how to balance this with the domestic pressure.
Last season, they were outplayed by Bidvest Wits in a game that fell bang between Sundowns CAF clashes, so Mosimane and his boys will be more focused.
Much will depend on how Yannick Zakri kicks off his new season with the Brazilians. He is no more under pressure to prove himself, and a relaxed Zakri will prove a massive asset. The same will apply to Sibusiso Vilakazi, whose undoubted ability and class seem to have been overshadowed by pressure to prove his value following his much publicized move to the champions.
Percy Tau, too will now know he has nothing to prove any longer, and will be a year more mature, and beware a Tau in form and relaxed.
Number one goal minder Denis Onyango will know that new signing Razak Brimah will be itching to grab the gloves, and this will bode well for the Tshwane Giants.
Captain Hlompho Kekana will hope the fans turn up in the same numbers they did when they played their last game at Lucas Moripe Stadium against AS Vita Club. Kekana has urged the fans to turn up in numbers to urge the boys to deliver great results.