DURBAN - Addressing the media before the most high profile match in the club’s history, Maritzburg United coach Fadlu Davids had his three defenders Siyanda Xulu, Denis Weidlich and Bevan Fransman seated closest to him.
The seating arrangement, with striker Evans Rusike and winger Fortune Makaringe seated on the extreme wide positions, was appropriate given that Davids would have been spending most of his time with his defensive players in the build-up to Saturday night’s MTN8 semi-final second leg fixture against SuperSport United at the Harry Gwala Stadium.
Xulu, captain Weidlich and veteran Fransman will be the key players, along with goalkeeper Bongani Mpandle, in shutting out a SuperSport side that will search for goals to cancel the 1-1 result from the first leg the previous weekend.
An equaliser from midfielder Lebohang Maboe in Pretoria gives the Team of Choice an edge. If they shut out the visitors or beat them, the Midlands outfit will make club history by reaching their first knockout final. That is the burning ambition that has Maritzburg fired up for a SupersSport onslaught.
After they stunned Mamelodi Sundowns 1-0 away in the opening round, and followed up with the draw at SuperSport, the Team of Choice are looking forward to wrapping up the tie in front of a full house home crowd.
However they expect to be tested by strikers Jeremy Brockie and Bradley Grobler and winger Thuso Phala, the scorer of the first leg goal. The experience of the defensive trio will be therefore be crucial.
“We have to be cautious,” warned Davids. “We have an away goal but if SuperSport scores it will put us on the back foot. We can only draw 0-0, otherwise we must win the game. SuperSport are extremely dangerous so we have to be cautious but also pragmatic.
“The defenders are important cornerstones to give our team stability, and to be able to take us forward. We can’t go on an all out attack and open ourselves up. They need to win the game so we can’t play an open game and open ourselves up."
In four league and cup outings the Midlands team have only conceded once. That inspires confidence in the side that if they stick with the same approach they will advance to their maiden final. German Weidlich, in his second season in South Africa, hasn’t won a trophy as a professional, and is determined to break that duck here.
“For us it’s a big thing because every player in the country wants to reach a final. But first it’s about the two games (of the semi-final),” said the 31-year-old.
"We must not put pressure on ourselves, just show our quality and keep on doing what we do week by week. We are so close to a final so we have to grab it."