‘Home win is vital’

2015-02-10 00:00

MARITZBURG United will move to fifth on the log if they can overcome Wits tonight when PSL football returns to Harry Gwala Stadium.

How the sides get out of the starting blocks is anybody’s guess given that it is nearly two full months since any ­domestic football has been played — the country and continent having given ­Afcon 2015 their full attention.

Wits are coached by the no-nonsense, title-winning mentor that is Gavin Hunt. The former SuperSport United boss, who won three successive league titles at the Pretoria-based club between 2008 and 2010, is looking to replicate that success at Wits.

The Students finished in third place last season, nine points behind winners Mamelodi Sundowns. It is hard to see anybody finishing ahead of Stuart ­Baxter’s Kaizer Chiefs this year, but ­second place is attainable and such a ­result would illustrate further growth for Wits under Hunt.

“Gavin Hunt is not easy to predict. He could come throw three strikers at us, he could play three centre backs or two centre backs — he’s got a variety,” United coach Steve Komphela said ­yesterday, speaking highly of his ­opposite number.

“He doesn’t waste too much time ­trying to play sexy football and that tells you that there is going to be a lot of ­activity in our defensive third. I think we are ready. We’re playing at home and, as we always say, we need to win our games at home.”

Maritzburg go into the game with a fully fit squad after being one of the first clubs in the league to resume training in 2015. The Team of Choice were back at work in early January — a move that Komphela thinks has made his squad ­fitter.

“That is why we started on January] 5th. Everybody else started on the 7th or the 10th, and we didn’t have that luxury. We are in business,” said ­Komphela.

United are without centre back ­Mohammed Awal for the rest of the ­season after the Ghanaian international signed with Saudi club Al-Shabab ­during his stint at Afcon.

“The signals and messages had been there,” Komphela said of the prospect of Awal leaving. “But you look at the bright side. It is an opportunity for one of the centre backs to step up. We wish him [Awal] all the best and this should serve as an inspiration to the rest of the team to say that even though they are from Maritzburg United, they can go play anywhere in the world.”

With Kwanda Mngonyama, David Booysen and John Paintsil all having proved their worth at centre back so far this season, Komphela will now also turn to former Jomo Cosmos and ­Platinum Stars man Tsepo Moloto as additional cover.

Another impact player on show ­tonight will be Maritzburg winger Mondli Cele, who has featured in all of ­United’s 17 league matches so far. His pace, skill and energy down the right flank earned him a call-up to Shakes ­Mashaba’s ­preliminary Afcon squad, and Komphela says he has seen a difference in the player since that moment.

“His levels of motivation are ­different. He is training like somebody who sees hope, and when you train like that there is purpose,” Komphela said of Cele.

Turning his attention to United’s ­decision not to go into the transfer ­market this January, Komphela was his usual philosophical self.

“You don’t just go to the shop and buy soap when you know your bathroom is already full of soap,” he said. “We’re still okay and we will survive the last 13 matches. It becomes a fashionable thing to sign during the window period. The window period is there to tighten up in areas where you need to, you don’t have to just go in there and buy.”

Tonight’s match kicks off at 7.30 pm and will not be televised.

PSL fixtures (all 7.30 pm)

Tonight

Maritzburg United v Wits

Mamelodi Sundowns v Moroka Swallows

Tuks v Chippa United

Tomorrow

Ajax Cape Town v Polokwane City

Bloemfontein Celtic v Kaizer Chiefs

SuperSport United v FS Stars

AmaZulu v Orlando Pirates

Platinum Stars v Black Aces.

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