Cape Town - Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp has explained his decision to leave midfielder Kearyn Baccus out of the starting lineup against Black Leopards.
Chiefs saw their nine-point lead at the top of the Absa Premiership standings cut to seven after being held to a 1-1 draw by Leopards at Thohoyandou Stadium on Saturday.
Thohoyandou has the reputation of being a notoriously difficult place for sides to visit with the intense heat and boisterous home crowd. And Middendorp believes the fixture schedule has been unkind on his side in handing them an afternoon fixture in Thohoyandou.
“Listen, in the South African Premier League this is the toughest one to travel to in particular having to play in the afternoon," Middendorp told KickOff.
"But we would have been more comfortable playing in the evening. Coming here with these circumstances is by far the toughest journey in the entire season in South Africa."
Baccus has been one of Chiefs' best players on the season with his calmness in possession and eye for a pass. And so it was a surprise when the former Melbourne City midfielder was left on the bench for the encounter with Lidoda Duvha.
But the Amakhosi mentor has revealed it was because of the heat that he chose to keep Baccus on the bench. The 28-year-old has spent his professional career playing outside of Africa and away from the scorching African sun and was thus protected from the intensely high temperature.
"As I said before, you have players who have not been around this area, Baccus is normally a first XI player, Samir [Nurkovic] hasn't been here too and you could see, the fear to handle the environment, to handle the heat," he explained.
"I thought okay let me start with one who doesn't know anything about it here and then during the game bring Kearyn and some other guys in.
"Good normally it works and the was time enough to put it in place. We always say we don't only have 11 players, we have 12, 13, 14 belonging to our first choice, give us some options and that's it."
Chiefs maintain their hunt for a first title since the 2014/2015 season when they face Golden Arrows on Saturday.
- TeamTalk Media