JOHANNESBURG – Ernst Middendorp, coach of Premiership log leaders Kaizer Chiefs, is upbeat about the resumption of the domestic season, saying his troops are ready to complete what they started.
As the coronavirus pandemic made its way to South African shores in March, forcing the domestic season to be temporarily suspended, a cloud of uncertainty hung over Chiefs’ title aspirations: many were torn between calling the season off and crowning Amakhosi champions or declaring the season null and void.
Given the first suggestion wouldn’t be easy as Amakhosi only led champions and second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns, who had a game in hand, by four points, it was the second suggestion that seemed sustainable.
That gained momentum as the spat between the South African Football Association (Safa) and its special member the Premier Soccer League (PSL) hit the ceiling pertaining to the details about the restart.
But sanity and stability reigned two weeks ago as the PSL confirmed that the domestic season would resume.
Chiefs restart their push for glory against fellow championship hopefuls Bidvest Wits, who are sixth on the log standings and 10 points behind, with a clash at Orlando Stadium today (6pm kick-off).
After resuming training early in July, recording a clean bill of health and not registering any positive cases as they assembled in the ‘bio-bubble’ in Gauteng last weekend, Chiefs are ready to rumble, says Middendorp.
“In the entire six weeks of preparations, we’ve had only four days off. The rest of the days were absolutely work and being well prepared for this big project. We are aware that we have to fulfil the expectations,” he explained.
“If you love your work and what you are doing (you’ll prepare well). And that is what I’ve seen on the final days with the players. There’s been a good mood and attitude towards the game. So everyone is looking forward to the start on Wednesday.”
When the ball gets rolling at their new home Orlando Stadium this evening, it will be 159 days since Chiefs last played competitive football. But on the other hand, Wits are still fresh from their 3-2 loss to Sundowns in the Nedbank Cup semi-finals on Saturday.
But that Wits are still in the title race and with players hoping to impress scouts so that they can secure contracts for next season, Middendorp, who watched their match on Saturday, says it would be suicidal to underestimate the Braamfontein-based side.
“I think it is too much and we shouldn’t get carried away to say, ‘Okay, they’ve sold the club and the players are less committed’. Actually, I think the opposite is the case. They want to finish on a high and each and everybody wants to show their value individually and as a team.”
Chiefs will end the season without Sundowns-bound George Maluleka.