Kaizer Chiefs coach Muhsin Ertugral, could have made the wisest move of the season so far when he opted to return to Johannesburg from a rain soaked Durban on Sunday to start preparing from scratch for Tuesday’s night’s MTN 8 cup final showdown against arch rivals Mamelodi Sundowns at Durban’s Absa Stadium.
Both clubs originally planned to stay in Durban after heavy rains at the weekend forced the Premier Soccer League to postpone the game which was originally scheduled for Saturday night. The pitch was waterlogged and unplayable. The organisers had no option but to call off the match and reschedule it for the same venue on Tuesday night.
The weather in Durban has been cold but the rain has started clearing up and the PSL are still excited about attracting a capacity crowd despite offering to refund those who bought tickets and cannot attend Tuesday’s game. The fact that Wednesday is a public holiday has the PSL hopeful of a sellout crowd.
While Sundowns stayed in Durban to prepare for the R8 million winner takes all final, Ertugral decided it was better to go home and start preparing again on Monday. Said Ertugral: “I was pleased when my chairman (Kaizer Motaung) and club management supported me as I felt it better for the players to come home and having a fresh start on Monday. We will train at Naturena before flying back to Durban on Monday afternoon. It affords the players the chance of sleeping at home and returning mentally and physically fit for the cup final.”
Ertugral said he was concerned that by staying in Durban, the players would lose concentration. “I felt that due to the importance of the game it was better to give the players a break and keep their concentration levels as high as possible.” The Amakhosi coach said he would not be changing tactics but would be discussing the game with his captain, Jimmy Tau. Meanwhile, the Brazilians’ spokesman Mahtlatse Mphahlele, said his coach Trott Moloto and technical team, were happy to stay and prepare in Durban.
He said the players were in high spirits. Said Mphahlele: “We were all disappointed at the final being postponed but that decision was out of our hands. We will be glad when it comes kick-off time on Tuesday. The players are all looking forward to the final. We are ready.”
The Brazilians are the odds on favourites in terms of the way in which Moloto and the club’s billionaire owner Patrice Motsepe brought in 12 new players in the off-season to strengthen and kick-start what should be a highly successful season. A couple of those big name signings are set to shine. Veteran Sibusiso Zuma reputed to be the highest paid player in the PSL will be keen to show why Motsepe rates the Bafana Bafana star so highly. Zuma’s return to the PSL after a successful career in Denmark with FC Copenhagen and in the Bundesliga with Arminia Bielefeld, started on a sour note when the versatile Zuma was red carded in injury time of their MTN semifinal, first leg clash against their Pretoria rivals SuperSport United at the Super Stadium last month.
Zuma is likely to be supported by Surprise Moriri and another newcomer Benedict Vilakazi, who is still finding his feet after a disappointing season in Denmark with Aalborg. Vilakazi will be hoping to recapture the form that made him a hero at Orlando Pirates before his stint in Denmark. Vilakazi is also trying to regain his place in Bafana and the cup final would be the perfect platform to re-launch his career. The key for Chiefs will be striker Jose Torrealba who returns after a two match suspension to lead an attack that has been found wanting in the previous two league defeats against Thanda Royal Zulu and PSL rookies Maritzburg United. Torrealba left Downs under a black cloud last year and this will be the first time he has played against his former teammates and can expect plenty of close attention.
But for Chiefs and Torrealba to succeed then both supporting acts in the form of speedy, skilful left wing Siphiwe Tshabalala and attacking midfield talent Gert Schalkwyk need to fire in the ammunition and feed the Venezuelan goal predator. On form and with their incedible depth Downs should win but Chiefs have the greater experience and cup final pedigree and with Ertugral at the helm this final is expected to go down to the wire.