Lentjies: good to be back at United

2010-08-25 00:00

THE first two Absa Premiership matches for Maritzburg United, against AmaZulu FC away on Sunday in Durban and the hosting of Kaizer Chiefs three days later at Harry Gwala Stadium, will go a long way to determining how things will pan out for the “Team of Choice” this season.

United have kept last season’s impressive core squad and, most importantly, still have coach Ernst Middendorp at the helm to ensure continuity.

Retaining Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Shuaib Walters and buying talented midfielder Kurt Lentjies from Mamelodi Sundowns will have Middendorp sleeping a lot easier at night.

The duo were linked with several clubs who were impressed by the players’ application while on loan at United last season.

In keeping with his high-tempo approach, the German mentor has gone for untested youngsters.

The latest developments have had the officials talk up a top eight finish, something the club hasn’t achieved in five seasons in the elite league.

However, as much as the blending of youngsters and experienced campaigners is commendable, question marks hang over whether the squad’s capabilities will back up the brave talk.

The full back positions look fine, with James Madidilani having shown renewed determination and he has been taken off the transfer list.

Hard-working Elias Ngwepe is expected to show why he was voted the club’s best player during the last campaign.

It is in central defence where United are in desperate need after Mario Booysen returned to Ajax Cape Town.

Young midfield anchor Khulekani “Chillies” Madondo continues to impress, but clearly needs a mentor alongside him for when the going gets tough.

The club will hope Ghanaian midfielder John Aruwah regains his old form immediately after months of lay-off through injury.

United should have realised that over-reliance on Fadlu Davids for goals could work against them, as the Cape Town marksman is injury prone.

Problematic Ajax Cape Town striker Diyo Sibisi, who is being assessed, might ease the pressure on Davids’s shoulders.

Pietermaritzburg-born forward Siphelele Mthembu, who is unsettled at Orlando Pirates, might be the answer for goals as well.

United CEO Afzal Khan said they have put in an offer for Mthembu and are now waiting for feedback from Pirates.

Middendorp admitted a need to plug the central defence and reinforce the strikeforce, adding that if it were up to him, they would not have kicked off the league programme against AmaZulu, who repeatedly got the better of United last season.

On deciding to stage the Chiefs clash at Harry Gwala for the first time, Khan said: “It’s a big sacrifice moneywise for our loyal fans, who have had to take trips down to Durban for the Chiefs matches. Besides, we granted our coach’s wish to have Maritzburg United enjoy home advantage. With the squad we have prepared for the season, we will capitalise on being at home”.

Meanwhile, Lentjies, who committed himself to a three-year deal, expressed happiness at being back with United.

There were fears the Cape Town-born player was on his way to Ajax Cape Town.

“I enjoyed my time the last time I was here, so why not come back? Coach [Middendorp] is one of the reasons I came back here. He treats players equally and played a big role in instilling confidence in the players when he joined.

“I am looking forward to achieving a top eight finish and featuring in one of the cup competition finals. We have a squad capable of achieving that,” said a confident Lentjies.

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