Santos coach Mart Nooij wants his players to show some “balls” as they head into Wednesday’s first promotion-relegation playoff match against Thanda Royal Zulu.
The People’s Team beat relegated Jomo Cosmos 1-0 in their last game of the league season on Saturday. But they will contest the dreaded end-of-season playoffs after Black Leopards beat Ajax Cape Town 3-1 in Polokwane to secure their status in the Premiership.
Santos were on Sunday joined in the playoffs by National First Division runners-up and fellow Cape side Chippa United and former top-tier side Thanda, who beat champions University of Pretoria 1-0 in the last game of the season.
Santos and Thanda kick off the round-robin playoffs on Wednesday in Durban, with the mini-tournament only concluding on June 23, because of the international dates in between.
So there is no time for Santos to sulk after a dreadful campaign, in which they left their best performances for two home matches against Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
And the former league champions can forget about putting in some of the same slack performances we saw in most of their matches against Chippa and Thanda, as the two NFD teams will come out firing because they basically have nothing to lose and the glory of promotion to gain.
“We are all men, and we have to have balls and character to deal (with the playoffs). Football is like that. If we sit in the dressing room crying like little children, then it would be not good,” Nooij said.
“The guys now have recuperation, and then on Monday we will have training in the morning and in the afternoon to prepare for our first playoff match.”
Nooij said they weren’t too disappointed that Ajax went down to Leopards in Polokwane. However, the players did look a little bit dejected after a rather easy match against a Cosmos second-string side who were also without their coach and owner, Jomo Sono, on the sidelines, because he was unfit to travel because of an illness.
But Nooij is hoping that his team can use the victory over Cosmos as a platform to excel in the playoffs, especially after their first clean sheet since his arrival at the club a few weeks ago.
“If the guys play like this, and they continue to improve like they have over the last five weeks, we should do well in these matches,” Nooij said.
“I have been in Africa more or less 11 years, and I know there are no presents and you have to do it yourself. We have to win our home matches, and if you can’t do that, you are in trouble.
“We are not too concerned about what happened at Leopards, because there was nothing we could do about it. You can only do what you can do and the team did well in the last game against Cosmos.”
The former Mozambique coach was spotted at Chippa’s 2-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers in the Mother City last weekend. But while he didn’t want to divulge what he thinks of the standard of the competition his team are going to face, he says he is only concentrating on trying to get his them ready for the month ahead.
“I’m only five weeks in South Africa, and I’m not going to tell you what I have picked up when I watched that game. However, I’m only looking at my own team and I think we are improving,” he added.
Ajax’s loss capped off a disappointing campaign after being beaten to the title by Orlando Pirates on goal difference last season. – Cape Times
Wednesday: Thanda Royal Zulu v Santos.
Sunday: Chippa United v Thanda Royal Zulu.
May 30: Santos v Chippa United
June 17: Santos v Thanda Royal Zulu.
June 20: Thanda Royal Zulu v Chippa United.
June 23: Chippa United v Santos.