After that poor run of form, coach Owen Da Gama urged his senior players to pick up the young guns when the chips are down
There’s an air of uncertainty hanging over Highlands Park about their objectives in the Nedbank Cup, but do not expect Kaizer Chiefs to have it easy when the two teams meet in the last 16 tomorrow afternoon.
The Lions of the North have had a resounding roar in top-flight football since their second promotion three seasons ago, finishing in the top eight last term before losing out on the MTN8 crown in the final to SuperSport United in October.
That loss appeared to be a sucker punch as the wheels came off for Highlands, bagging only one win in the next 10 matches before getting back to winning ways in the last game of 2019 against Golden Arrows.
After that poor run of form, coach Owen Da Gama urged his senior players to pick up the young guns when the chips are down.
All looked promising in the first round of the new year as Highlands defeated Black Leopards, something that proved to be a false dawn.
From there on, the Lions of the North went on to be weeping cats as they lost three successive matches in which they conceded nine goals, while Da Gama bemoaned having had more players in the medical room than available for selection.
Now closer to a clean bill of health following breaks in between, Highlands are gradually finding their feet again as they’ve pulled off two wins, one in the Nedbank Cup last 32 and the other in the league, in their last two matches, before salvaging a famous away point from Bidvest Wits on Wednesday night.
Da Gama and his charges welcome Chiefs to the Makhulong Stadium in the second round of South Africa’s premier club knockout competition tomorrow (3pm kick-off) but the former Bafana Bafana coach believes that doing well in the league is their priority now.
“I don’t know if we are really ready to be challenging for all the cups. Let’s be honest about the readiness in depth.
“Yes, we did well in the MTN8; we were still fresh then and okay, and now coming towards the last eight games of the season I think our priority is the league,” a resolute Da Gama said after the 2-2 draw with Wits on Wednesday.
Chiefs have defeated Highlands twice in the league, but Da Gama is optimistic they won’t be on the losing end for a third successive meeting – something that could very well inspire them to punch above their weight and progress further in the competition.