Coach: Maritzburg United on track for top eight finish

Maritzburg United coach Steve Khompela

Maritzburg United are heading towards the end of the PSL season, poised to finish in the top eight of the league for the first time, but needing to work their way through a punishing schedule to secure a place in the prestigious MTN 8 competition.

“Rest is very important,” coach Steve Khompela said at a media open day in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday. “Sometimes the schedule is hectic, it’s punishing, and you, as a coach, you go in there with the understanding and the expectation that I might not get the physical performance I am looking for, but let’s get the result we want.

“I am delighted we got the win at Bloemfontein Celtic [in our last match]. At least it pushed us back into the top eight because it is our ambition to make this team the generation who took Maritzburg United into the top eight. That’s our objective.”

Khompela said he believed his team is mentally primed to take on the challenges posed by Ajax Cape Town, Moroka Swallows, Orlando Pirates and AmaZulu, with the clash against the Durban side bringing the curtain down on the season on 9 May.

“There is pressure and strain. It is more mental at the moment. It has nothing to do with physical components: all players are fit enough. Tactics everybody is aware of,” Khompela explained. “It is about who wants it more and that edge will come from how you view it, and views are momentum, so it is very important for us to stay very strong mentally, look at what we want to achieve, and keep pushing towards that.”

The former Bafana Bafana captain acknowledged the solid performances of his defence throughout the season, including goalkeepers Virgil Vries and Shu-Aib Walters and the goalkeeping coach Paulo Mathura.

Focusing on the entire defence, he added: “You look at what they do, the amount of work they put in, and it pleases me when I go in and analyse clips of Maritzburg, and you pull a clip from Barcelona, or Bayern Munich or Chelsea, there is a similarity, which reinforces that we are doing things right. They are moving closer to an understanding of top defensive teams in Europe.”

Khompela also took time to pay tribute to former Bafana Bafana star John “Shoes” Moshoeu, who passed away on Tuesday.

“It is devastating, something that no words can ever describe. He was a very close friend of mine. I am close to the family. To me it is a blow, but one thing we acknowledge is that our time will come one day.

“It is tragic. My deepest condolences to the family. May his soul rest in peace. His contribution to South African football, both as an individual and a football player, and as a man is clear. Now it is all about following his values and trying to be like him.”

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