JOHANNESBURG – There are three reasons Eric Tinkler must be facing SuperSport United’s clash with Maritzburg United at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday evening with trepidation.
That is the number of stress-inducing matches Tinkler has had at the home of the Team of Choice.
The former Bafana Bafana hardman takes Matsatsantsa to Maritzburg for the second leg of the MTN8 semi-final, having drawn 1-1 in the first at the Lucas Moripe Stadium a fortnight ago.
While the fact that his team allowed the opposition to score the crucial away goal would have Tinkler concerned, it is history that would have kept him tossing and turning at night as he anticipated the trip to Maritzburg.
The KwaZulu-Natal capital has established itself as some kind of hoodoo ground for Tinkler since he became a head coach two seasons ago.
Three matches in particular at that ground stand out, and no doubt Tinkler will be hoping for different fortunes this time around with a new side.
Upon his elevation to being interim coach of Orlando Pirates after Roger de Sa’s departure, Tinkler took the Buccaneers to Maritzburg for a league clash.
With his team trailing 1-0, Tinkler was sent off by referee Victor Gomes after his frustrations boiled over and led to him using what the whistleman considered unbecoming language.
Fortunately for him, Pirates managed to pull back and forced a 1-1 draw.
The following season, with Tinkler now officially the head coach, Maritzburg raced into a 3-0 lead within half an hour.
Somewhat shell-shocked, he cut a forlorn figure as he sat on the bench, while his assistant Teboho Moloi cajoled the team into staging a remarkable comeback that saw the match end 3-3.
Last season with Cape Town City, Tinkler looked set to cause a major upset by guiding the new club to championship success.
But late in the season, the Citizens came unstuck at the Harry Gwala Stadium when Fadlu Davids’ men beat them 1-0. That match literally put paid to City’s championship hopes and they eventually finished third.
Of course, he is with a new club now. And, yes, statistics are nothing more than numbers, with little or no influence on the outcome of matches.
But will those matches be gnawing at Tinkler’s mind as his team march on to the pitch?
And if they do, will he have the steely nerves to not let it filter down to his players?
With a place in the final beckoning, Tinkler will have no choice but to see this match as completely different to the previous three.
As an experienced coach, the best thing he can do is to not make the match about him, but rather inspire his team to go out there and prove to Maritzburg that they, SuperSport United, have more cup pedigree.
No doubt his prayer will be that Gomes is not in charge of the game. And he will probably impress on his team not to concede early.
Will Tinkler bury the hoodoo or will Maritzburg march to their maiden cup final appearance in the elite league?