JOHANNESBURG – Having been the whipping boys of the so-called “smaller teams” in the past, Kaizer Chiefs are determined to leave nothing to chance in their Telkom Knockout semi-final clash against Maritzburg United.
After finishing ninth on the Premiership standings last term, and subsequently missing out on the MTN8 competition this season, the Soweto giants got their first chance to end their four-year trophy drought via the Telkom Knockout.
And so far, so good. Chiefs won their TKO round of 16 and quarter-final, albeit via penalty shoot-outs, against Cape Town City and Orlando Pirates, who are two of the powerhouses in top-flight football.
In the semi-finals, where they’ll come up against the Team of Choice, who are miles below their pedigree, Chiefs could potentially stumble.
Last season, Ernst Middendorp’s men lost to second tier TS Galaxy in the final of the Nedbank Cup. And that’s why Chiefs defender Daniel Cardoso believes they have to apply the correct mentality when they clash with Maritzburg at Mbombela Stadium on Sunday (3pm kick-off).
“That’s in the past and it was unfortunate for us that we lost to TS Galaxy. But it’s a lesson learnt. It’s always better playing a bigger side because the players get hungrier because they can see that there’s a lot at stake,” he said.
“When we are playing Sundowns, you can see that the energy is there. So, we are hoping to bring the energy against a smaller side. Maritzburg is not a small side, they’ve got good players. So, we’ve got to keep going.”
With Chiefs the team to beat so far, Cardoso believes being everyone’s enemy could very well be the fuel that drives them to churn out their best.
It’s been a term to remember for Chiefs, having opened up a 10-point gap at the top of the league after 11 matches.
Middendorp’s men have also defeated reigning champions Mamelodi Sundowns in their own backyard, before finally putting one past arch-rivals Pirates.
However, the league is a marathon. And that’s why Chiefs have to turn to their undivided attention to the Telkom Knockout, which is a sprint.
“Yesterday, I said to one of the players, we are not playing against Maritzburg but against the whole (other 14 teams in the) PSL. I am sure every team will be there, sitting watching and wanting Maritzburg to win,” Cardoso said.
“It will be a tough encounter. We can’t take our foot off the pedal, especially having been in a good space as a team.”
Get a win on Sunday, and Chiefs will meet either Sundowns or Golden Arrows in the final at Moses Mabhida Stadium on December 14.
Cardoso is aware that the supporters, including the sponsors, are dying for an all-Gauteng final between Chiefs and Sundowns, but he says their focus as a team is to be the champions of the 2019 Telkom Knockout - regardless of which team they’ll have to beat in Durban.