JOHANNESBURG – Ernst Middendorp, the Kaizer Chiefs’ coach, is convinced that his players are obsessed to end their three-year trophy wait by winning the Nedbank Cup, while their Absa Premiership campaign has suffered the consequences of becoming a platform of below-the-par performances.
Following an impressive 2-0 win over Cape Town City in the Nedbank quarterfinal almost a fortnight ago, a lot was expected from a Chiefs’ team that welcomed relegation-threatened Baroka FC side at FNB Stadium on Saturday night.
But Middendorp’s troops failed to pitch, suffering a 1-0 loss to Bakgaga following a well-executed set-piece from Tshediso Platjie in the second half.
“You are obviously right (that the players are more concerned about silverware) but I don’t support this. It’s unacceptable,” Middendorp said. “During a cup competition, you play your heart out but against Baroka, you deliver something like this? That shouldn’t be a normal routine, that’s not something that we want to see as a club or brand.
Unfortunately, I can’t deny it because it’s the same players, structure and technical team (that won the match convincingly against City) but six days later, what’s missing?”
On paper, Chiefs are mathematically still in the title race. However, judging from their casualness in the league matches, it’s quite clear that they’ve lost faith in terms of reaching the summit and stunning the three serious contenders in Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits.
Moreover, had Chiefs put in the same attitude and character in the league as they do in South Africa’s premier club knockout competition, that would do the PSL a world of good - considering that if they finish third, they’d qualify for the Caf Confederations Cup and should they win Nedbank, their second spot in Africa will be handed over to the finalists.
The 60-year-old German coach finds himself with his back against the wall as he has to use the same players for both competitions, due to the high number of injuries.
“It’s like you are having a fantastic car but you don’t have fuel. It’s totally disappointing because it’s not quite what we are doing,” Middendorp stated. “We have to look forward to next week, and try to put other players. Maybe we shouldn't be using the same players.”
Following Teenage Hadebe's injury after he bumped into the posts on Saturday night, Middendorp’s freedom to have a squad rotation continues to depreciate. Hadebe joined a handful of key players - Itumeleng Khune, Lebogang Manyama, Eric Mathoho and Joseph Malongoane - who are out of action. Also on the sidelines are youngsters Happy Mashiane and Nkosingiphile Ngcobo.
Middendorp is banking on his players to quickly change attitude.
“We had enough recovery time. There’s no reason (not to pitch up). I know these players, they have a certain complacency, drama and dynamic.
It’s unfortunate we have a lot of work to do (but) I know something is missing for us to have a successful constant run.”@Mihlalibaleka