JOHANNESBURG - Evans Rusike might have fresh legs - only playing domestic football while his new teammates voyaged across the continent over the last year or so - but SuperSport United coach Eric Tinkler is concerned the frequency of match days could soon take its toll on the striker who was signed from Maritzburg United last month.
Rusike joined Matsatsantsa a Pitori on transfer deadline day following the departure of Kiwi sharpshooter Jeremy Brockie to crosstown rivals Mamelodi Sundowns.
The Zimbabwean immediately became a regular and looks set to lead the line for the rest of the campaign in the hope that SuperSport can somehow rely on his goals to make their top eight target by May.
“But he is experiencing something different here as well. He played for Maritzburg, and they only played one game every seven days,” Tinkler said. “Now he is playing a game every three days - he’s not used to that.
"Yes, it’s good that he is fresh because when the rest of us were playing CAF (Confederation Cup) games he wasn’t. We also have to kind of wrap him in cotton wool. We have to be careful.”
Rusike has scored just once in the four games he has featured in for SuperSport since arriving, and there is no doubt Tinkler wants more from him, while he is perhaps understanding of the fact that the Zimbabwean still has to get used to how they play.
He will most likely take up a similar role in attack on Wednesday away to struggling Ajax Cape Town.
“He put out a lot of energy against Sundowns (in the 1-1 Absa Premieship draw on Saturday) and it’s going to take him a little while to recover,” said Tinkler.
“What ends up happening when you have a game so quickly after playing, there is not much you can do tactically. That is why I am so proud of the team because I changed the formation, worked on it once really. And they grasped it quite well. I think if we continuously work on it, then obviously it will get a lot better.”
Tinkler has not minced his words about his priorities before the end of the season, while also returning to the Confederation Cup, which has evidently taken so much out of them and derailed their season so far.
“Realistically I have to finish in the top eight,” the coach explained. “In my mind we can’t expect anything less than that. Where we finish in the top eight will depend on the results. But that has to be our prime objective.
"It’s not a case of not taking Confed seriously, it’s a competition I love playing in and would love to go again to get as far as I have been (two finals) before, but our priority has to be the league. If you ask me if I will field by strongest team, probably not.”
SuperSport face Angola’s Petro Luanda in the Confederation Cup group stage play-off first leg tie next week.