The return of Gordon Igesund to the big time and the introduction of several new faces at Golden Arrows and Maritzburg United spices up the start of the Telkom Knockout.
Veteran Durban coach Igesund is back in the mix after he was announced as the new coach of Highlands Park yesterday, three days before they open their TKO campaign in a home game against Chippa United.
Igesund, 60, rejoins the club he once played for, as they aim to ignite their season, which started lukewarm with a win and a draw from five league games. He replaces Allan Freese who led the Lions of the North to promotion via the play-offs a few months ago.
The league winner with Manning Rangers, Orlando Pirates, Santos and Mamelodi Sundowns last worked at Supersport United where he won the Nedbank Cup before he was fired in January. It means Igesund is out of the running for the Zambia national team job he was linked with over the past few months.
Igesund will ring the personnel and tactical changes as the new broom sweeps clean. A revival of sorts will also be on the cards for Maritzburg when they visit Kaizer Chiefs for their Knockout opener on Saturday, while Arrows will aim to sink Orlando Pirates in Soweto on Sunday.
An element of revenge will also factor into Arrows’ and Maritzburg’s assignments after they lost league games to the Soweto giants. Arrows were whipped 3-1 by Bucs in their first match, and the Team of Choice went down 2-0 despite outplaying the Amakhosi for significant periods .
Arrows are almost at full strength after Colombian striker Mauricio Barrios and Zimbabwean winger Kudakwashe Mahachi featured in weekend action after recovering from a face and arm injury respectively. Barrios wore a face mask when he made his debut as a second-half substitute in the 1-0 home win over Chippa, and Mahachi turned out for Arrows’ reserve team in a Diski Challenge win over Ajax Cape Town. Their availability offers coach Clinton Larsen more experience and variety.
Maritzburg have Olympic winger Deolin Mekoa returning from suspension. If there were question marks about his fitness, the break for Fifa World Cup qualifiers and his absence from the league outing at Free State Stars last weekend would have allowed him ample time to rest.
The Team of Choice drew 1-1 in Orkney, with a late equaliser from captain Kurt Lentjies. Coach Ernst Middendorp gave debuts to winger Lebohang Maboe and attacker Devon Saal, possibly with an eye to remedying their scoring woes.
Lentjies’ goal was their second in six matches, clearly not the kind of strike rate that will trouble a Chiefs outfit that hasn’t conceded in reeling off four straight victories.