Coach Ernst Middendorp is upbeat about the return of his skipper Itumeleng Khune. Photo: <uzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – While his troops may have come second best in the pre-season’s major tests, Kaizer Chiefs’ coach Ernst Middendorp believes the next few days will give his team a chance to fine tune their last preparations for the new term.

Once known as “Cup Kings of South African Football”, Amakhosi are enduring a dismal state in that regard, with their trophy cabinet having garnered dust in the last four seasons.

Having found themselves in a situation that could be described as a second chance for a fresh start considering the disappointing outings of last term, Chefs’ technical team and players have somewhat endured a roller-coaster of responses towards the gesture. You see, Amakhosi’s pre-season performance was supposed to set a tone for the term.

However, their results have been unsatisfactory, losing 2-1 to Botswana giants Township Rollers early this month. This was worsened by a sour defeat to sworn enemies Orlando Pirates in the Carling Black Label Cup at FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

With six days before Chiefs get their 2019/2020 Premiership season underway against Highlands Park at Makhulong Stadium, the German tactician has backed his team to have hit full strides.

“I don’t think I was the only one to say that it would have been impossible to equalise,“ Middendorp said after their 2-0 defeat to Pirates. “The performance needed the players to be closer to each other, with less gaps in between.

In certain moments, it could have been done differently in order for us to score and at least get us a draw. But okay, we are working on it and like I said before, we still have certain players that are playing backwards. We have six-seven days (to work on a better approach), so it’s definitely a ‘heated’ week, there’s no doubt about that. Expectations are starting to cook in.”

However, while Middendorp and his technical team still have a few days to prepare for the season that’s arguably a break or make for them, they’ll also get an opportunity to assess their medical room returnees.

Midfielder George Maluleka, who pulled a hamstring ahead of Saturday’s clash against Pirates, will get his scan results this week. While captain Itumeleng Khune, who’s been out since the beginning of January with a shoulder injury, will be back for selection early next month.

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“We have been clear, and the medical side confirmed it two days ago that Itu (Khune) will be be available for selection in August,” Middendorp stated. “We have to look at how far from the training side he is and where we can bring him into the area where he feels comfortable, we have to prepare.”

While Middendorp is upbeat about the return of Khune, he was also relieved that newbie Lazarous Kambole finished Saturday’s clash without a bruise following an exhausting period last month.



The Star

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