Middendorp, Mosimane and Hunt are battling it out for league glory
THE race for supremacy in the Absa Premiership is becoming a three-horse race with Kaizer Chiefs currently head and shoulders ahead of other contenders Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits.
Ernst Middendorp leads Chiefs on this charge and he understands the size of his challenge as his counterparts at Sundowns and Wits, Pitso Mosimane and Gavin Hunt, are established winners while the German is still waiting for his maiden success in the South African Premiership.
At this stage, Middendorp is in the driving seat and there would be a constant creepy feeling among Amakhosi faithful knowing that reigning champion Mosimane is breathing down their necks and another perennial achiever, Hunt, is still chasing hard.
Amakhosi head the log with 45 points after 19 matches, Sundowns are on 35 points after 18 outings, while Hunt is fifth with 30 points after 15 matches.
If the Clever Boys can win all of their games in hand, they will be on 42 points and that’s too close for comfort.
With the league race poised for a pulsating finish, it is little wonder the three coaches are being careful not to put themselves under pressure. Mosimane’s attempts at shifting the load began earlier in the season when he challenged Chiefs to win the league and “go into Africa” to prove they are worthy champions.
He also harped on about the luck that the Naturena side seemed to enjoy – benefiting from poor refereeing and winning through ‘suspicious penalties’.
Mosimane’s missives proved ineffective and Chiefs and Middendorp have been quite smart by adopting ‘silent diplomacy’ and focussing on winning games to keep Chiefs’ dream of winning the championship to coincide with the club’s 50th anniversary alive. Middendorp arrived in South Africa in 2005 and has coached numerous teams, including Chiefs, without any success in the league.
The German has only laid his hands on two trophies in South Africa. In his first stint with the Glamour Boys, he delivered the SAA Super Eight and the Absa Cup. However, at this point, Middendorp is so close to breaking his duck in the league, his reluctance to say much is understandable.
All the eyes are on him to end the drought but you can be sure that Mosimane is unlikely to make it easy.
The Kagiso-born boss has his own set of reasons to want to win the league crown again. He has won it back-to-back and wants to complete his hat-trick. The only coach to achieve that feat in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) era is Hunt.
He won it three times on the trot during his tenure with SuperSport United.
Mosimane will be looking to emulate Hunt and become the most successful coach in the PSL era.
Currently, he is tied with the legendary Gordon Igesund, the late Ted Dumitru and the iconic Hunt on four titles. All of his four have been with Sundowns. The Brazilians will also want to achieve their La Decima. It will be their 10th title in the PSL era.
Hunt, on the other hand, has stayed out of the verbal exchanges between Mosimane and Chiefs but has not stopped lamenting the lack of resources in his camp despite the fact that they boast the best defensive line-up in the league.
No less than three Bafana Bafana defenders form Wits’ spine. Hunt is also campaigning in the CAF Confederation Cup which is why his team is lagging behind in games played in the domestic schedule.
But Hunt will want to be the first one to get to five league wins. He lifted three with Matsatsantsa A Pitori and has already won one with the Clever Boys.
It remains to be seen who will reign supreme.