Team of Choice must up game to avoid going down tube

Middendorp wary of resurgent Leopards

01 March 2021 - 09:49
By Sihle Ndebele AND Sihle Ndebele
Thabiso Kutumela of Maritzburg United challenged by Thabang Monare of Orlando Pirates during the 2021 Nedbank Cup Last 16 match between Maritzburg United and Orlando Pirates at Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix Thabiso Kutumela of Maritzburg United challenged by Thabang Monare of Orlando Pirates during the 2021 Nedbank Cup Last 16 match between Maritzburg United and Orlando Pirates at Harry Gwala Stadium in Pietermaritzburg.

Maritzburg United coach Ernst Middendorp has urged his players to build on the first-half performance of their 1-3 weekend defeat to Orlando Pirates in the Nedbank Cup last 16 if they are to avoid relegation.

Maritzburg dominated the first stanza before allowing Pirates to bully them in the second half. Thabiso Kutumela put the hosts in front in the ninth minute, but second half goals from Kabelo Dlamini, Deon Hotto and Vincent Pule put the KZN side to the sword.

“If we are able to get the commitment, focus and intensity like we did in the first half, we have a chance [to stave off relegation]. We need to build from the performance of the first half. We need to play like that for long in the game,” said Middendorp.

The bottom-placed Team of Choice welcome fellow relegation candidates Black Leopards at Harry Gwala Stadium tomorrow (5pm). Occupying the 15th slot, Lidoda Duvha are on 12 points, three better than Maritzburg.

Going into this game, Leopards are showing signs of resurrection as they managed to string together two wins on a trot against Golden Arrows and AmaZulu in the league and in the Ke Yona Cup last 16 respectively.

“It’s a game that is very important to us. Knowing that a team [Leopards] are coming with two wins in a row, qualifying for the Nedbank Cup last eight, we need to work very hard against them,” said Middendorp.

Against Pirates, Middendorp threw youngsters Cameron Carnell, Phiwayinkosi Zuma, Lungelo Bhengu and Keletso Sifama in at the deep end. The former Kaizer Chiefs mentor indicated he played the young guns in such a big match to prepare them for the relegation dogfight.

“The competition is stiff with these younger players showing that they are committed. It was important to play them i because you have two, three games in one week ... it will be like that for the remainder of the season. The fight is on,” said Middendorp.

Fixtures (5pm unless stated)

Tomorrow: Pirates v Celtic, Orlando Stadium; Maritzburg v Leopards, Harry Gwala Stadium; TS Galaxy v Swallows, Mbombela; AmaZulu v SuperSport, Kings Park.

Wednesday: Chippa v CPT City, Sisa Dukashe Stadium, 3pm; Arrows v Baroka, Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium.