JOHANNESBURG – Evans Rusike flashes a wry smile as an immediate response to what goes through his mind when he sees how well his former team is doing and how much his new team is struggling.
The Zimbabwean forward left Maritzburg United for 'greener pastures' by joining SuperSport United in January as Jeremy Brockie’s replacement.
The Team of Choice continued to soar without Rusike. Belgian striker Andrea Fileccia took over the baton from Rusike to lead Maritzburg to third place in the Absa Premiership while also helping take them to Nedbank Cup semi-finals.
Matsatsantsa a Pitori, on the other hand, are third from the bottom on the league table, a mere point above the play-off spot occupied by Ajax Cape Town. SuperSport failed to create distance between themselves and Ajax by playing a goalless draw against Orlando Pirates at Mbombela Stadium on Wednesday.
“That’s how football is,” Rusike said. “When I made the switch, Maritzburg were on top and SuperSport were down there. But I chose to come here because of my ambition. I am more focused here. I don’t have any regrets about this move.
I was at Maritzburg for quite some time. I needed a new challenge and new environment. I got more than what I bargained for. But this situation will wake you up. There is no time to relax, considering where the team is. You have to work your socks off.”
Rusike has fared better than Brockie in the sense that he has found the back of the net for his new club while the New Zealand forward is yet to open his account at Mamelodi Sundowns. But there is still a lot for Rusike and his teammates to do for their understanding to be telepathic so that SuperSport can get the best out of the prolific forward.
“The understanding is getting there,” Rusike said. “You need time to understand players. Even at Maritzburg, it took time for me to get used to the environment. I have scored one goal here, so that’s a positive start. I take that as a positive and will build on it.”
SuperSport have a tricky trip to the Mother City to take on Cape Town City at Athlone Stadium tomorrow. Matsatsantsa can’t afford to drop more points in the relegation scramble that intensified after Ajax defeated the reigning league champions, Bidvest Wits, to be within touching distance of the Pretoria outfit.
Rusike has been in this situation before. He was part of the Team of Choice that avoided relegation on the last day of the season. But he thought that he would have avoided such problems by joining the ambitious SuperSport who have become something of cup kings in the last three seasons. The Zimbabwean has seen the roles reversed - Maritzburg doing well and in the top half of the league table while his new team fights tooth -and-nail to avoid the axe to the first division.
“As a footballer, you have to adapt,” Rusike said. “These things happen all around the world, that players join teams in the middle of the season. You just have to adapt and keep on pushing. Unfortunately I came at a time when we are fighting to avoid relegation.
It’s been Okay. As a footballer, there are challenges that you will face. Those challenges build your character. This situation makes you work even harder to come out of it.
We have to keep on fighting. We can’t afford to drop any points.”