at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
On paper, Wednesday’s promotion play-off match against Chippa United should be a doddle for Santos.
But, as any follower of this most unpredictable sport will tell you, football is not played on paper.
The action unfolds on grass, between the white-chalked lines and, when the pressure is on, tension and anxiety bite, and just about anything is possible.
So don’t write off Chippa. This is the type of “nothing to lose, everything to gain” situation that lower tier sides thrive on.
The promotion play-offs feature PSL club Santos and two First Division teams – Chippa and Thanda Royal Zulu – battling it out for a place in next season’s top-flight. Each club have played one match and Santos have the advantage, having beaten Thanda 1-0, while Chippa and the team from Richards Bay drew 1-1.
As the PSL incumbent, Santos should have the upperhand. They have better resources, better players and have the benefit of many years of PSL experience.
But in a mini-tournament such as this, where there is such a lot at stake, it’s often not just about the football, it’s about heart, courage, determination and, above all, desire.
Wednesday’s match at Athlone Stadium (kick off 7.30pm) will reveal which of these two Cape Town-based clubs have the greater hunger and passion to be in the PSL next season.
“We will do anything to stay in the PSL,” said Santos coach Mart Nooij. “We have to win this match, nothing else matters.
“Since I took over as coach, every game has been approached like a cup final. This match against Chippa will be no different. we have played six cup finals so far... this is another cup final.
“It’s an important game. I have a feeling that the club, the players and management and fans have been waiting for this moment to arrive because victory will ensure that the time of misery and unhappiness previously experienced can all be turned around.”
Dutchman Nooij is a well-travelled coach, who has extensive experience on the continent. This is his first spell in South Africa, and he’s confident of keeping Santos in the PSL.
“I have been in the country for six matches, and the results have been more or less okay,” he said. “The players are fine, so we will select a squad of 18 who will attack. There is only one option and that is to win.
“We have trained hard, and I believe the players’ motivation will grow. We are optimistic about the match.”
Nooij and his assistant Duncan Crowie were in the crowd for Chippa’s draw with Thanda. What are his thoughts?
“I never comment on the opponents. I always focus only on my own team. We have to do it ourselves.
“Yes, we will analyse their weak points... and then we will hit them.” – Cape Argus