Maritzburg United host SuperSport United in the first quarterfinal of the 2012 Telkom Knockout at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Friday nightAfter years of struggle in knockout competitions, SuperSport have some good pedigree of late, winning the Nedbank Cup at the end of last season and reaching the final of the MTN8 in this campaign.
They have proven a tough side to beat in all competitions this season, their MTN8 loss to Moroka Swallows their only reversal to date.
But coach Gavin Hunt has also lamented the number of draws the team have had, seven in their eight league matches to be exact.
Their latest stalemate came against BidVest Wits on the weekend, when they finished the game with nine men, ruling out defender Mor Diouf and winger Franklin Cale through suspension against Maritzburg.
“To be fair we have not hit our straps this season,” Hunt said. “We have had no form, although we also haven’t looked like being beaten much.
“The problem is that a lot of the players have not put their hands up this season and that’s why we have made a lot of changes. I don’t like a big squad of players but this year we have a big squad. Sometimes big squads cause you problems.”
Maritzburg coach Ernst Middendorp agrees that SuperSport could be in a much healthier position and that their league points tally this season does not reflect their strength. That makes them a dangerous opponent in the Telkom Knockout quarterfinal.
“They could easily have had 15 or 16 points and that would have put them in them in second position in the league,” Middendorp said. “They have a quality squad and will eventually rise to the top.
“I’ve said to my players already, ‘don’t think that we’re playing a team that because two players are not available [Cale and Diouf], they are a lower level team’. They are definitely a team that will end in the top three, I have no doubt about it.”
Middendorp was delighted when his side scored late on to earn a 1-1 draw with Kaizer Chiefs last time out and he says the spirit in his camp is on a high. They will be especially confident of pulling off a result at their Harry Gwala Stadium fortress.
“I think the spirit was very good and it shows how far this team has come,” the German coach says. “Players are starting to trust each other, the ones next to them on the field, knowing that he has the quality, he has the ability.
“This is one of the strengths of the team, knowing each other, even though the unifying process is still going on.
“We’re a small squad and everyone knows their roles and that is also an advantage too because everyone is involved. But there is still room for improvement and we hope to continue getting better in the weeks ahead.”Maritzburg reached the quarterfinals of the Telkom Knockout with a penalty shoot-out win over Moroka Swallows after the teams played to a 0-0 draw, while SuperSport also needed spot-kicks to advance after a 1-1 stalemate at Ajax Cape Town.
|DID YOU KNOW|
- SuperSport United beat Maritzburg United 7-0 in a league match in October 2012.
But the reverse fixture in Maritzburg last season ended in a 0-0 draw.
Maritzburg have never beaten SuperSport, their 10 previous meetings ending in six wins for Matsatsantsa and four draws.
- SuperSport have scored an impressive 26 goals in those 10 matches.
- Maritzburg have lost just once at home this season, beaten 1-0 by BidVest Wits in late September