This is a crucial time for Amakhosi
There’s been a resounding air of dominance that has been wafting around Amakhosi’s camp this season, tipping them to be on course to end their four-year trophy drought as they top the Premiership standings and have reached the last 16 of the Nedbank Cup.
Bouncing back to winning ways as league champions would put a perfect ending to their barren run, but the club’s rich history, which sees them as the “Cup Kings of South African football”, prevents them from turning a blind eye to cup competitions.
And that’s why the next two games, in the Nedbank Cup and league, are must-wins for coach Ernst Middendorp and his charges. The Naturena-based team are away to Highlands Park on Saturday in the second round of South Africa’s premier club knockout competition.
Their next assignment will be away to sworn enemies and fellow title contenders Orlando Pirates for the second round of the Soweto Derby in the league - an encounter that could very well have a say in where the crown will go come the end of the season in May.
And despite only a week separating Chiefs’ next two crucial matches, being in their best form on both matches is a must.
After all, doing well in the league by finishing in the top three, or winning the Nedbank Cup, will guarantee them continental football next season.
“In the past, when we’ve had a Fifa or 10-day break, we would take a bit of a slump in form in the next matches, so I think that playing game after game is better for us; it brings us more confidence and game-time,” Cardoso said.
“When we lost to Polokwane City, we had had two weeks off, so going into this game is better for us because we are able to work on things going into the derby. Game-time is more important than training sessions. Game fitness and training fitness are two different things.”
While Chiefs are pumped up for their next two clashes, it would be in their best interests that Cardoso, Reeve Frosler and Lebogang Manyama, who are one yellow card away from suspension, tread carefully against Highlands at Makhulong Stadium.
A booking for any of those players would be a massive blow for the team heading into the Soweto Derby against a well-rested Pirates side who were eliminated from the Nedbank Cup last 32 by Bidvest Wits.
However, Cardoso, who’s played all 24 domestic matches this season, scoring five goals and providing one assist, says he’ll do what he has to on Saturday, subsequently letting his fate to play in the derby take care of itself.
“I’m here and I want to play every game of the season, that’s what my job consists of. It’s all up to the coach now. If I have to play, I must play. Every game is crucial for us. If we want to take all the cups, we must play, although it’s a bit of a difficult one,” Cardoso said.
“If I get booked, I get booked. There are players that will have to come in and play in the derby. It will be harsh if I get booked but what can I do? It’s one of those things.”@mihlalibaleka