Team of Choice sign five new players

2013-01-30 00:00

WITH the PSL firmly in the shadows as the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 hogs the headlines, Maritzburg United have been doing shrewd business in the transfer market as they prepare for the second half of the domestic season.

With a squad smaller than most in the league, United punched above their weight last year and are in fifth place on the PSL log after 16 rounds of fixtures. That’s unfamiliar territory for a club who are usually head deep in relegation worries by this stage of the season.

Durban-born Dillon Sheppard joins from KwaZulu-Natal neighbours Golden Arrows and will bring a wealth of experience to the Team of Choice.

At 33 years old, Sheppard has built a reputation for having one of the most educated left boots in the league.

With Mohamed Awal [Ghana], Cuthbert Malajila, Terrance Mandaza [both Zimbabwe] and Delron Buckley [South Africa] all having played international football, United can now add another two names to that list with the arrival of Namibians Heinrich Isaacks and Virgil Vries.

Isaacks (27) has won 17 caps for his national side and can be used as a striker, an attacking midfielder or a winger.

With Malajila a slight injury worry ahead of the season’s resumption, Isaacks’s signing could not have come at a better time for coach Ernst Middendorp.

Vries is a name more familiar in South African footballing circles.

Formerly of Arrows, the goalkeeper joins from Namibian club Orlando Pirates and he has featured 10 times for his national side since making his debut in 2009.

With Shu-Aib Walters in good form last year, Vries will likely have to be content with a spot on the bench alongside veteran Francis Chansa.

The other player who joins United is local boy Ayanda Ndlovu.

The midfielder was sent out on loan to first division outfit Sivutsa Stars at the start of the season, where he has played in every game.

Ndlovu was called back early by Middendorp and after being labelled a bright prospect, he will look to make an immediate impact in the squad.

All four players will be immediately available for United when they take on relegation-threatened AmaZulu at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on February 12.

United have also signed Ajax Cape Town’s 25-year-old midfielder ­Nhlanhla Vilakazi on a pre-contract that will see him move to Maritzburg at the end of the season.

But United confirmed yesterday that, pending a decision from Ajax in the next “day or two”, Vilakazi could join up with his new team-mates sooner.

The fact that United have been able to attract players to the Midlands is largely due to their improvement this season.

With just 14 games to be played, and a Nedbank Cup run on offer, there is certainly reason for Team of Choice fans to be even more optimistic now that the squad is one that boats a little more depth and experience.

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