‘Universe favours the underdogs’

2014-02-10 00:00

HE may have gotten off to a winning start against Tuks last week, but things will get very real for Maritzburg United coach Steve Komphela when the Team of Choice take on log leaders and champions Kaizer Chiefs in a PSL clash at Harry Gwala Stadium tomorrow night.

United scored three goals in 15 minutes to beat Tuks 3-2 on Wednesday night in one of the season’s more thrilling encounters, and Komphela is delighted with the character shown by his charges.

But the former Free State Stars mentor is under no illusions, and has identified this as a difficult time to be facing Amakhosi.

“This is the wrong time to be playing them. They are on a roll, and we are still the new kids on the block in terms of our cohesion and work relations,” he said. “But one good thing is that the win against Tuks has given us a good boost.”

Komphela has built up a reputation for himself as being one of the league’s more philosophical coaches, and he highlighted this when speaking of his team’s chances.

“Sometimes your strength is your weakness, and the universe favours the underdogs,” he said.

United are still without Ashley Harthog, Peter Petersen, Bandile Shandu and Ghanain striker Mohamed Yakubu, who has only just recovered from a scary bout of malaria after returning home during the Christmas break.

“He doesn’t have the strength yet. He is on a programme and he will come right,” said Komphela of his under-performing striker, who has scored just one league goal this season. “You know how lethal malaria can be. Luckily we picked it up quickly, because it could have been disastrous.”

With Yakubu ruled out of tomorrow’s clash, Komphela still has options at his disposal for his out-and-out striker. Thokozani Sekotlong started the Tuks game and remains the obvious choice, and Zimbabwean Terrance Mandaza is another option, but the coach also pointed to Dutchman Orlando Smeekes as a contender.

“Orlando gives you another dimension,” said the boss. “There is the element of speed, the dribbling with the ball, the shot, the arrogance and his temperant in the match gives you some options.”

It won’t matter where the goals come from, though, and in the Tuks game they came from all over the park with even defender Mario Booysen getting on the score sheet.

Regardless of whom Komphela opts for up front, it is a given that Kurt Lentjies will start behind the striker in the number 10 position.

In his second stint at United after spells at Bloemfontein Celtic and SuperSport United, Lentjies scored United’s first against Tuks and assisted the last two goals. His contrubution did not go unnoticed.

“You can see in his game that he [Lentjies] is a very intelligent player,” said Komphela. “But he still has to adapt to this team, the same way I still need to adapt to the players.”

With Chiefs having played their first Caf Champions League game on Saturday, Komphela is hoping that coach Stuart Baxter opts to rest some of his bigger names against a Maritzburg side that will need all the help they can get.

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