Smeekes is key for United in Pirates clash

2014-05-02 00:00

A DECISION on his future at the club still hasn’t been made, but Maritzburg United speedster Orlando Smeekes is looking no further than tomorrow’s Nedbank Cup semi-final against Orlando Pirates at Harry Gwala Stadium.

This will be the end of Smeekes’ second season at United after he was signed by then coach Ernst Middendorp in June of 2012.

Much of his time under Middendorp was spent in the physio’s room as injury after injury — including a broken foot that ruled him out of the second half of the 2012/13 campaign — left Smeekes frustrated and unable to get his PSL career moving.

Under current coach Steve Komphela, Smeekes has flourished and has been the in-form player for United in the second half of the season. With the Dutchman out of a contract at the end of the season, both Komphela and chairperson Farouk Kadodia have been mum on whether or not the 32-year-old Curacao international will be kept on next term, though Kadodia has expressed his desire to do just that.

One of the quickest players in the PSL, Smeekes has — under Komphela — been deployed as a counter-attacking specialist and though he has only netted three league goals this season, he has been a nuisance for opposition defences over the past few months.

Vocal on his desire to stay in Pietermaritzburg and continue his work under Komphela, Smeekes is buzzing ahead of tomorrow’s massive clash — his biggest since arriving in Mzansi.

“This is the biggest game of my South African career, but I think there will be another one in the final and I’m waiting for that,” Smeekes told The Witness confidently this week. “Everybody in the squad is really positive and nobody has any fear of Orlando Pirates.”

Smeekes thinks that the advantage of playing in front of a sold-out Harry Gwala works in his side’s favour.

“If we were playing away it might be a different story, but it is really difficult to play us at home,” he said. “You don’t want to come and play an important game against us at Harry Gwala. It’s going to be good to play in front of Maritzburg supporters and not only Pirates supporters.”

On his own physical state, Smeekes said that he was feeling better than he ever had since joining United — good news for Komphela and the Team of Choice.

“I’m feeling fitter and stronger than I have before. I’ve had a few injuries but I’m feeling much better now,” he said. “I’ve been working really hard. I’ve always known what I was capable of and I could never show it because I was injured, but now it’s showing.”

The striker/winger confirmed that there had been “chats” with Komphela over his future, but that he was still in the dark.

“I want to stay under a coach like Steve Komphela. I have improved under him and he can see my qualities and he knows how to use them, and I think that’s a good thing,” said Smeekes. “What is important now is to focus on the game on Saturday and nothing else.”

With only David Booysen an injury concern, Komphela has a fully-fit squad to choose from.

If he opts, as expected, to favour a counter-attacking game that is heavily reliant on pace, then he is likely to start Smeekes out wide and on the left while lively Ghanaian youngster Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi could come into consideration on the opposite flank.

The other conundrum is who Komphela will opt for in goal. With Shu-Aib Walters experienced and proven, he would be a safe bet. But Virgil Vries has been utilised by Komphela in cup competition, and his performances have been impressive. And if United look to attack quickly on the counter, then accurate goalkeeper distribution might see the Namibian edge out Walters for a starting place.

The match kicks off at 8.15 pm and will be televised on SuperSport 4 and SABC.

• Open stand tickets for the match which were available through Shoprite Checkers and Computicket are sold out. There are only grand stand tickets (R100) available at the following outlets:

1. Maritzburg United Offices — 397 Victoria Road

2. Supersave Supermarket — Retief Street

3. OK Mini-market — College Road.

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