Johannesburg – Three Premiership coaches will face their former teams when Bloemfontein Celtic host Maritzburg United and Platinum Stars welcome SuperSport United to Rustenburg on Sunday.
In a bizarre move which saw a straight swap between coaches of Maritzburg United and Bloemfontein Celtic last month, Ernst Middendorp and Clinton Larsen will face their former teams just two games into their new roles.
Larsen stepped down as Celtic boss a day after the Free State outfit were thrashed 4-0 by Mamelodi Sundowns in the opening round of the Telkom Knockout cup competition.
Middendorp replaced Larsen in Bloemfontein following his decision to leave the Team of Choice, also after losing in the knockout competition, at the hands of Platinum Stars.
Asked about the reunion at the Free State stadium, Larsen opted to focus on his new team, saying that his troops would have to fight for a victory.
“We feel we are a top-eight team and it is something I'm getting the players to believe in and they are beginning to play like a top-eight team,” Larsen said ahead of the encounter.
“But the only way to prove that we can mix it up in the top half is by going away to play difficult teams like Celtic and getting good results.
“If we do that, the belief that we can finish much higher up the table will be ingrained in the players.”
Maritzburg headed into the tie on the back of a 2-0 league victory over fierce provincial rivals AmaZulu, and were yet to lose since Middendorp took over, drawing both of his first games in charge.
“Celtic have got two draws against two good teams but they will feel it is only a matter of time before they turn those draws into wins,” said Larsen.
“But we don't want that to be at our expense.
“We are still a work in progress though, and we are trying to bring confidence from playing our way out of defence, something that was not done here before.”
Maritzburg goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters, however, was less coy on the subject, stating he felt Middendorp had abandoned his former team for greener pastures.
“From my side, because I worked with him for three years, it felt like he dropped us,” Walters said.
“But I understand, I was a lot closer to him than most players, so maybe they didn’t feel the same.
“I know what the frustrations from his side were… we are professionals and coaches do come and go. One day they will be there and the next not.
“I am sure he will do well at Celtic though.”
In Sunday’s other fixture, Matsatsantsa coach Cavin Johnson will travel to the Royal Bafokeng Stadium for the first time since joining United from Dikwena in July.
Johnson had made a steady start to his SuperSport career, having steered the Pretoria outfit to the top of the league standings eight games into the season.
Since his departure from Stars, new coach Allan Freese had already won a trophy with the club from the North West, lifting the coveted MTN8 trophy by beating Orlando Pirates in September.
Sunday: Bloemfontein Celtic v Maritzburg United (Kaizer Sebothelo Stadium), Platinum Stars v SuperSport United (Royal Bafokeng Stadium). – Sapa