There is a wave of optimism sweeping around Pietermartizburg thanks to Tinkler
Maritzburg United endured turbulent times last season but they have bounced back with a bang in the current campaign.
The Team of Choice have put in a string of convincing performances that propelled them to fifth on the log.
They are on course to possibly finish in the top three with six games to go if the league resumes.
Their season so far
Maritzburg started slowly but gained momentum during the season.
They didn’t enjoy a winter break because of their participation in the play-offs and that took its toll on some of the players. The likes of Keagan Buchanan and Daylon Claasen were struggling for match fitness, while Dan Morgan was still trying to find his feet.
The Team of Choice also had to deal with the departure of midfielders Fortune Makaringe and Siphesihle Ndlovu.
That all contributed to their slow start but once they spent some time together, Maritzburg proved to be a dominant force.
Their consistency has improved dramatically in the second round when they have defied the odds to defeat teams that are challenging for league honours.
Maritzburg targeted the top eight at the start of the season but it seems that they have achieved that with ease having amassed 39 points.
Their next objective now should be challenging for continental spots.
Under Eric Tinkler, Maritzbug are a very difficult team to play against.
They usually play with three centre-backs and overload both flanks with wings-backs.
When they defend, they defend with five and don’t play with out-and-out wingers. Their two wingers cut inside to allow the wing-backs to storm forward.
Judas Moseamedi was their point of attack in the first round of the season but Bongokuhle Hlongwane has since taken that role.
The left hand side is their strongest side, where Mxolisi Kunene operates.
The arrival of Tebogo Tlolane has made them even more dangerous down the left because he operates at inside left in the midfield that is made up of Claasen, Buchanan and Phumlani Ntshangase.
What they’ve done right
Maritzburg are a dominant force on home turf on Friday nights at Harry Gwala Stadium.
They are still unbeaten on Friday nights. Friday nights in Pietermaritzburg have become a nightmare for opposition teams. They have mastered the art of killing off teams at home on Fridays.
One of their major weapons is their ‘never say die’ attitude.
The Team of Choice have earned points from losing positions.
Against Bloemfontein Celtic, they were 2-0 down but showed character when they came back with five minutes to go and earned a 2-all draw.
They also showed the same character against Lamontville Golden Arrows when, with six minutes to go, they were 1-0 down but came back and won the game 2-1.
The Team of Choice have shown big match temperament by beating the likes of Kaizer Chiefs and Bidvest Wits and holding the likes of Orlando Pirates.
Maritzburg are also very resolute at the back.
What they’ve done wrong
Maritzburg lack pace at the back and that is one of their weak points. Only Kuwena boasts pace at the back.
Their ability to turn defence into attack is sometimes not quick because of the poor distribution by Richard Ofori when he has to play those long balls.
Rushine de Reuck: He has been the shining light for the Team of Choice at the back this season.
He has been their pillar of strength in defence with his great tackles. De Reuck is also comfortable with the ball on his feet. He can start play at the back.
The Cape Town-born defender is very good in one-on-one situations. He is a good reader of the game and effective in defusing dangerous situations.
Quinton Jetto (General Manager): “We learned our lessons from last season but more importantly, we got the directors’ support in making sure that we assemble a good team that we thought would be much better than last season.
“It took time for the guys to get the momentum. After five games, we had two points but once we gained our rhythm we never looked back.”
Away: v Black Leopards, Highlands Park and Bloemfontein Celtic
Home: v Mamelodi Sundowns, Bidvest Wits and Orlando Pirates
Last five games: WWWWD@minenhlecr7