JOHANNESBURG – SuperSport United might have had a couple of happy endings at Mbombela Stadium in the past, but Kaizer Chiefs midfielder George Maluleka is banking on the arrival of coach Ernst Middendorp to help the team end the first half of their league season with maximum points.
Chiefs will lock horns with SuperSport at the World Cup venue tonight (7.30pm).
On Friday, Middendorp took over the hot seat from Giovanni Solinas who was fired by the club after five months in charge, due to a string of poor results.
“I think Kaizer Chiefs and SuperSport United matches are always difficult ones,” Maluleka said.
“Judging from the last time that we played them, I think they are going to want to come at us. They’ve used the Mbombela Stadium for a couple of their home games as well, that’s why I think it will be a tough encounter. But like Bernard (Parker) said, the spark of energy that we’ve had in our training session has been amazing. But the boys have always had the team spirit and I am confident of this one.”
Maluleka admitted that the change is set to bring in fresh ideas and is an opportunity for fringe players to make new impressions.
The Tembisa-born footballer is one of the players that will be hoping to get into Middendorp’s good books following a frustrating period under Solinas - where he only made five appearances in domestic football.
Amakhosi are seventh on the Absa Premiership’s log standings - with four wins, six draws and four losses - while they’ve already lost out on two cup competitions - the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout.
Furthermore, they’ve also succumbed to back-to-back defeats to arch-rivals Orlando Pirates, who are among the pacesetters in the log standings.
The 29-year-old, though, is optimistic that Middendorp is the suitable candidate to revive the team’s title aspirations.
“It’s a new chapter and it’s always exciting to start afresh,” he said. “We need to adapt quickly because the games are coming very fast as there are three more games to go before the end of the year. As a result, we want to make sure that we close on a positive note.
“As Kaizer Chiefs we don’t really look at specific trophies, but all the trophies that are left we are gunning for them.”
Last week, Middendorp rejoined the Glamour Boys on a two-and-a-half-year deal, having previously been with the club from 2005-2007. His first two-year stint with the club ended in a bitter fashion following confrontational exchanges with the media and supporters.
However, following stints with clubs such as Maritzburg United, Golden Arrows and Bloemfontein Celtic, many might deem Middendorp as wiser.
His true character, though, will be tested as early as tonight when he makes his debut against Matsatsantsa A Pitori in their home match at Mbombela.
“We need to show our abilities, together, in a proper way,” Middendorp said. “We have to respect SuperSport who are in a good position at the moment. I think we actually have to perform at a high level to be successful.
“I think the focus is going in the direction of the league.”@Mihlalibaleka