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Battle of styles


Angry Chiefs host the cool and calm Polokwane

Ernst Middendorp coach of Kaizer Chiefs during the Absa Premiership match between Supersport United and Kaizer Chiefs on the 15 March 2019 at Mbombela Stadium. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

ERNST Middendorp and Zlatko Krmpotic are as different as chalk and cheese, but their personalities have fuelled the bright starts Kaizer Chiefs and Polokwane City have enjoyed.

The two will come up against each other on Saturday at FNB Stadium in the Absa Premiership and you can be sure that their conduct on the bench will be different. Middendorp will wear his heart on his sleeve, gesticulating and living every moment. Krmpotic will be calm and composed, without giving away what he is going through. To an extent, their teams are a reflection of their personalities.

Chiefs’ barren run has transformed them to an “angry” team – driven to make up for previous failures. Middendorp made it clear at the launch of the 2019/20 season of what the club’s objectives are.

“We have to win the league,” Middendorp said. He said it in a matter-of-fact tone. After that he talked about why his team needs to be more aggressive, fighting for every ball and standing their ground when they are kicked around.

“We have to man up,” the German said.

Amakhosi took those words to heart. They have fought tirelessly to bring back the glory days. Samir Nurkovic has embodied that mentality. The Serbian striker has bulldozed his way past defenders, not giving them room to breathe which has allowed Chiefs’ attackers space to do more and attack with freedom. Veteran Bernard Parker has filled almost every role in attack, playing on the flank, as the centre forward and supporting striker.

Parker was quick to respond when Middendorp said that Chiefs has to fight harder this season. Parker bought into that and he has led by example, chasing seemingly lost causes and fighting for every ball.

The Middendop-esque Chiefs will face their biggest challenge this season when they take on the calm Rise and Shine, a team on which Krmpotic has quickly stamped his authority to allow for a seamless transition from Jozef Vukuzic to his time.

The composed City rely on the evergreen Jabu Maluleke to pull the strings in midfield. Just like Maluleke, they go about their business quietly. City haven’t grabbed headlines but they have grabbed seven valuable points that puts them in the top half of the league.

Rise and Shine are also 90 minutes away from booking a place in their first ever cup final appearance. The clash with Amakhosi will be a good dress rehearsal for their duel with Highlands Park at Makhulong Stadium next week in the semi-final second leg of the MTN8.

When Krmpotic was asked what was his target, he laughed before revealing his ambitious side.

“Target, what do you mean by target? I want to be a champion. But you must have material to achieve that.

“We are working towards this. In football the target is to win every game. But that’s not possible. We will see,” he said.

Even though he represented his country at the highest level (1982 Fifa World Cup with the then Yugoslavia) Krmpotic carries himself with humility and grace. Krmpotic and Middendorp’s different personalities and their team’s ambitions will make this an entertaining match.