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Tinkler won't underestimate NFD rivals

Fortune Makaringe.
Fortune Makaringe.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

Maritzburg United coach Eric Tinkler has warned his troops against underestimating their National First Division (NFD) opponents in the promotion playoffs.

Finishing 15th in the Premiership via salvaging a 1-1 draw at Baroka on the final day of the season on Saturday afforded Maritzburg a last opportunity to save their top-flight status through participating in the round-robin playoffs.

The Team of Choice start their playoffs campaign with a tricky match against cross-town foes Royal Eagles at Harry Gwala Stadium on Sunday (3pm). Eagles are top of the mini-league after beating Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila 1-0 in the playoffs opener on Wednesday.

"The biggest mistake we can make is to underrate these teams [Eagles and Tshakhuma]. I have stressed it to my players that we must give our all because NFD teams are as competitive as we are,'' Tinkler said.

Tinkler's charges were starting to find their redeem towards the end of the season - winning two of their last three league fixtures with one draw. Midfield kingpin Fortune Makaringe was the catalyst for this resurgence as he scored one goal, racking up three assists in the process.

"It gives us confidence that we finished the season stronger than we had been playing all season long. You could see the determination from the boys in the past few league games. I hope we will keep that momentum in the playoffs and make sure that the team survives,'' Tinkler noted.

Maritzburg aim to be the fifth top tier club to bounce back through the playoffs. Baroka (2017), Polokwane City (2014), Mpumalanga Black Aces (2010) and AmaZulu (2007) are the only elite league side who have managed to clinch the playoffs since they were first played in the 2004/05 campaign.

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