Home Sport No ‘Chiefs slayer’, no problem for Maritzburg

No ‘Chiefs slayer’, no problem for Maritzburg

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Ernst Middendorp, head coach of Maritzburg United. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePix

Kaizer Chiefs will head down to Pietermaritzburg knowing that they still have another foe in the Maritzburg camp: Ernst Middendorp.

NO JUDAS Moseamedi, no problem, as Maritzburg United will still have Ernst Middendorp. That’s why the Team of Choice will be confident they can beat Kaizer Chiefs who will face them at Harry Gwala Stadium on Sunday.

For some time, Moseamedi earned himself “The Chiefs Slayer” nickname, having tamed Amakhosi whenever they played Maritzburg. But that was before he left this season for another coastal-based side, Stellenbosch FC.

Chiefs will head down to Pietermaritzburg knowing that they still have another foe in the Maritzburg camp: Middendorp. The German has coached Chiefs twice. His last stint three seasons ago ended in tears, after Chiefs failed to wrap up the Premiership title on the last day of the campaign.

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That happened on the final day of the season, with Chiefs having sat comfortably at the top of the league standings for several months in the Covid-19 disrupted campaign, and it did more harm for Middendorp who extended their trophy drought to five years.

Middendorp’s team specialised in set-pieces then, benefiting from aerial threats which were marshalled by then new striker Samir Nurkovic. That they choked in the end led to Middendorp’s ultimate demise at the club.

He was eventually replaced by Gavin Hunt. But the four-time championship winning coach had a daunting task at his hands, given the fact that Chiefs were handed a one-year transfer ban by Fifa.

Hunt had to work with an inherited squad. Some of the players, especially the youngsters like Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, Happy Mashiane and Sabelo Radebe, stepped up. There was little they could do however, as Hunt was eventually sacked as well.

Chiefs, however, reached the final of the Caf Champions League under interim coaches Arthur Zwane and Dillon Sheppard, and snuck into the top eight in the league. A new dawn loomed as Stuart Baxter returned for a second spell as the team’s coach.

The Briton has thus far endured a roller-coaster season. He appeared to hit the ground running in the first few matches but Chiefs eventually showed cracks as they stuttered, losing or drawing games that they should have easily won.

It’s perhaps true that “class is permanent while form is temporary”. The return of Keagan Dolly has injected some life to the club. Dolly initially faced criticism after leaving French Ligue 1 side Montpellier and for being overweight.

But the Chiefs attacker has been in fine form, being involved in nine goals for the team in just 11 matches. He took that form to Bafana Bafana, assisting in the World Cup qualifier against Zimbabwe at home last week.

With Bafana having failed to reach the final round of qualifiers after a controversial loss to Ghana last Sunday, Dolly & Co will turn their attention to domestic football. And so is Khama Billiat who has called time on his international career with Zimbabwe.

Chiefs will need to ensure that they capitalise on build-up and transition plays against Maritzburg who will be happy to sit back and catch them on the counter. After all, Middendorp will be eager to put one over on his former employers.

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