The Team of Choice weren’t that patient with Mandla Ncikazi, in his first head coach job, firing him after just five matches in all competitions - where the club lost four of those games but they were still waiting for work permits and tying down key players.
AmaTuks on the other hand exercised patience with Sammy Troughton, who led the club in a dismal campaign, with three wins in 16 league matches.
If you factor in how they finished last season, those three wins came in 26 matches as the club didn’t pick up a single victory in their last 10 matches with Troughton in charge.
He was given the axe in January, and replaced by Shaun Bartlett around the same time the Team of Choice hired their third coach this season in Ernst Middendorp.
Both coaches have been in this situation before, with Bartlett thrown onto the Golden Arrows ship that was already sinking two seasons ago. He couldn’t save them but managed to bring Abafana Bes’thende back after just one season in the first division. Middendorp has also felt the crushing blow of relegation with Arminia Bielefeld in his native Germany but also guided that club to promotion as well as saved teams from the axe in China and here.
If he does it with the Team of Choice, who have sat at the bottom for most of this season, it would be one of his greatest escape acts.
“Nobody forced me to take this challenge at the beginning of January,” Middendorp said. “My target is to keep the team in the PSL. I am not frustrated. I like this job. I like the process, seeing players grow under your eyes. This is the pleasure of it. If I don’t have this fire and I am not excited, I would stop.”
The only pleasure he has received with the Team of Choice is seeing the dedication and drive they have displayed. But their woeful defence and poor home record have hurt them. They start well and dominate matches but donâ€™t finish them off.
Middendorp will be looking to change that at Harry Gwala Stadium tonight when they take on Ajax Cape Town in what could be their last match in front of their passionate crowd, which has backed them through thick and thin, in the elite league.
AmaTuks will end their campaign at home, but tonight they’re at Peter Mokaba Stadium against Polokwane City in one of the two matches that Bartlett is targeting a minimum of four points from with the club tied with United on 21 points but sitting in 15th place thanks to a better goal difference.
“We have been working on certain things, not just on the field but mentally,” Bartlett said.
“We have employed people to see how they can influence the players’ minds and their attitude towards games. It’s a situation that we need to take good care of.”
After their matches tonight, the two clubs will wait with baited breath for the outcome of the case brought against Jomo Cosmos for allegedly fielding an ineligible player, Thabo Modiba, against Kaizer Chiefs when the matter is heard tomorrow after it was sent straight to arbitration.
If Cosmos lose the case, they could be docked three points which would cut their lead from four to just one point and see a thrilling fight for survival.
AmaTuks’ remaining matches
Polokwane City, tonight - Peter Mokaba Stadium
Golden Arrows, May 21 - Tuks Stadium
Maritzburg United’s remaining matches
Ajax Cape Town, tonight - Harry Gwala Stadium
Jomo Cosmos, May 21 - Olen Park Stadium – The Star
Original source: It’s do-or-die for Maritzburg, Tuks