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Ernst on the brink

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Should Kaizer Chiefs win in Mbombela, Middendorp would be the second Amakhosi coach after Mushin Ertugral to reach all three domestic cup finals.

Despite being on the brink of equalling a coaching record at Kaizer Chiefs, Ernst Middendorp believes collectiveness is what will inspire the club back to its glory days.

Chiefs are at their lowest as a football institution, having defied their ‘Cup Kings of South African Football’ tag and become a team that’s endured a trophy drought in the last four seasons.

They are, however, on course to end that barren run as they are in the semi-final of the Telkom Knockout, where they’ll meet Mariztburg United at the Mbombela Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Should Chiefs win in Mbombela, Middendorp would become the second Amakhosi coach after Muhsin Ertugral to reach all three domestic cup finals.

Ertugral achieved that feat during his handful of stints with the club, while Middendorp made his maiden final when he won the SAA SUPA 8 (now known as the MTN8) during his first tenure in 2007.

In his second reign, that started late last year, the German coach made the 2019 Nedbank Cup final, and that’s why he would set a personal record if he were to be on the winning end in Nelspruit.

Achieving that record wouldn’t have much value to the 61-year-old coach though, as he’s focused on matters at hand.

“I didn’t even know (that I would be the second coach to achieve that feat)! And I don’t even like to be the second,” said Middendorp, who was addressing the media this week ahead of the Telkom Knockout semi-final clash against Maritzburg.

The fact Middendorp is not paying attention to matters of the past is because he has a bigger fish to fry, such as being a trailblazer.

Get a win on Sunday, and Chiefs will meet either Sundowns or Golden Arrows in the final at Moses Mabhida Stadium on December 14.

A win in that final would see Middendorp become the first coach to bring a trophy to the club’s cabinet in four-and-a-half years after failed bids by his predecessors Steve Komphela and Giovanni Solinas.

The German tactician is not getting carried away though, pleading with his charges to be fully focused on the task at hand before thinking about Durban.

 “It’s not about me. It’s about the club, altogether. It’s very crucial that individuals and the players understand the contribution that has to be made,” he said.

“During the meetings this week, we highlighted what it’s all about. Sometimes, it’s very nice being on top of the league but the more difficult job is to stay there. 

“You just have to be more prepared and challenge yourself, the management, players or whomever. That doesn’t make you a lovable person because you cause stress but it’s what needs to be done.”

With Middendorp having spent stints with the Team of Choice, it may appear as though he knows the club like the back of his hand.

But far from it. 

The German tactician admits that his knowledge about Maritzburg is a bit limited given the arrival of new personnel and having Eric Tinkler done well in instilling his philosophy to his players.

“It’s two, three players, who were Under-12-13s, that are still there, but the rest are new. 

“But if you’ve been with the team, you follow them closer than others,” he said.