Maritzburg out to finish as high up the table as they can
Sixth on the PSL standings after bagging 33 points - thanks to eight wins, nine draws and five losses - few would have tipped the Team of Choice to be where they are after saving their top-flight status via the promotion/relegation playoffs last season.
But a burning desire to win, a full pre-season with the team for Tinkler and quick adapting by the 14 new players this season, and Maritzburg have gone about their business with aplomb - such that it is no fluke they also reached the Telkom Knockout final in December.
Despite all the plaudits, Maritzburg are not getting carried away - although they are, of course, happy that they have reached the 30-point mark, which almost guarantees top-flight football next season.
Maritzburg achieved that feat through a mid-week 1-0 away win over Wits, while ensuring that they also collected six points from their trip to Johannesburg when they beat log leaders Kaizer Chiefs 2-1 at FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Now on 33 points, and with a chance of securing continental football next season, Tinkler says his team’s mandate is to continue with their resurgence by finishing as high up the league table as they can.
“Our objective (at the start of the season) was to get to the 30-point mark, and as a team we said, ‘we’ll see where we can go from there’. We want to finish in the top eighth, and if we are going to finish higher than eighth, that’s the (new) objective,” Tinkler said.
“Right now, we are looking at the teams in front of us and (analysing and thinking) what it’s going to take for us to catch them. But we’ll do that game by game but I don’t think that we’ll change our approach, I think it just makes it slightly easier because the motivation, morale and confidence is very high right now.”
There is no doubt that Maritzburg’s resurgence has been largely due to integration. But captain and goalkeeper Richard Ofori deserves a special mention for how he has been a beacon of hope for the team even when the chips are down.
So much that when Chiefs dominated Saturday’s proceedings in the first half, looking to score with every foray into Maritzburg’s half, the Ghanaian’s No 1 kept his team in the game with some crucial saves.
More than proving that he is a world class keeper, Saturday’s performance by Ofori also showed just how much of a professional he is - considering his contract with Maritzburg is coming to an end in June; with negotiations for a new deal dragging because of overwhelming interest both locally and abroad.
“He remains our No 1 goalkeeper and captain. If someone wants him, that’s going to cost a lot of money - that I can tell you - because of the qualities that he has,” Tinkler said.@mihlalibaleka