DURBAN – An award for Golden Arrows, a mini pre-season for AmaZulu, and a funeral for Maritzburg United were the diverse happenings at local clubs during the break for international football.
On Wednesday night, they return to action in the Absa Premiership, with Arrows in a battle of the undefeated away to Baroka, Maritzburg searching for goals and form at Chippa United, and AmaZulu hoping to enjoy greater fluidity against visiting Polokwane City.
Arrows go to Baroka having welcomed the interruption to their unbeaten start of seven matches. The break allowed several players to recover in time to bolster coach Clinton Larsen’s selection pool for the tussle between the first and second-placed teams.
Victory tonight will see Abafana Bes’thende leapfrog their hosts for top spot.
“The break was good. It allowed players like Matome Mathiane, Lehlohonolo Nonyane and Jabulani Shongwe to get back from injury,” said Larsen, who received the season’s first Coach of the Month award during the break.
“We have a young squad, so we need the hours on the training field – it’s an opportunity to work on a whole range of things that need to be improved.”
With Baroka goalkeeper Oscarine Masuluke lauded globally after being nominated among the top three for the Fifa Puskas Award for a goal he scored last season, there should be plenty goalmouth action in Polokwane.
On the flip side, Maritzburg scored no goals in their last three outings in a six-match winless run in all competitions. To make matters worse, the club is mourning the loss of midfielder Mlondi Dlamini who died in a car accident the previous weekend.
Their request for a postponement of tonight’s match at Chippa United was turned down by the league.
“The players have adjusted to the situation over the week, and I think Mlondi’s memorial service and also his funeral on Saturday helped them with the process,” Maritzburg chairman Farook Kadodia said.
“There are many feelings that I can’t express, locked inside the players’ chests... We tried to deal with the situation as best we could, including bringing in a clinical psychologist... I’m sure they will play especially for the memory of the late Mlondi Dlamini.”
In uMlazi, coach Cavin Johnson will expect a well-drilled unit to deliver a consistent performance against Polokwane tonight.
Having joined the club a fortnight before the season started, Johnson would have welcomed the chance to implement his philosophy on the training ground during the break.
Usuthu are unbeaten in their last two outings, and haven’t lost at home in four matches.
Striker Lerato Manzini bagged three goals in the last two games, and AmaZulu will expect to bank maximum points to climb into the top half of the standings.
The Durban side will be without suspended midfield warrior Michael Morton.