Amakhosi coach Gavin Hunt has been busy in the past week after travelling to Angola for a crucial CAF Champions League first round second leg game against Primeiro de Agosto which Chiefs won to book a place in the Group Stages of the competition. To keeping his charges grounded upon their return, he and his technical team have been hard at work over the last two days preparing for Chiefs’ next assignment, which is a DStv Premiership game against Maritzburg United at FNB Stadium today.
After their return from Angola on Wednesday afternoon, the team trained on Thursday and Friday to prepare for the clash against The Team of Choice.
“With all the games, the preparation is very low key,” says Hunt, “just obviously trying to get our starting eleven out on the pitch. it was not a long journey to Angola, but it took a long time for various reasons. We are back and we have to go again this afternoon. That is part and parcel of the job.”
Hunt made a number of injury-enforced changes for Chiefs’ trip to Angola and was happy with the response from the players who did get a run out in Luanda.
“Well, a few players who have not played in a while got some time out on the pitch,” confirms Hunt. “We have had some injuries and we had to chop and change the team. It was good to see how the guys came together and hopefully we can take it from there going forward.”
There was good news for Hunt in the Angolan capital as Samir Nurković got to make a cameo appearance – his first of the 2020/21 campaign as he came on as a second half substitute. While Hunt is pleased that Nurkovic has returned, he is looking to field him with caution.
“The problem is that there’s no time between games,” he points out, “just a little bit of maintenance and then trying to get him fit by playing. The only way we can get him match fit is by playing. We can’t even have a friendly to give him 80 -90 minutes but at least we know he’s fit and healthy.”
While Nurković has returned, Chiefs are still without injured right-back Reeve Frosler. The team will also be missing Philani Zulu, who is serving his suspension and Mulomowandau Mathoho, who has been given time off as he has had a bereavement in his family. The Chiefs coach is sympathetic to his players and all those who have lost loved one in recent times. “People out there have to realise we live in this bubble of football, but outside people are losing lives and we need to be understanding of that.”
Hunt is looking forward to reacquainting himself with Maritzburg this afternoon, a team he has faced as a coach in league games on 28 occasions. The first meetings against them came back in the 2005-06 season when he was coach of Moroka Swallows with both games ending in draws.
Of Hunt’s 28 previous league clashes with Maritzburg, he has won 15 of these, drawing 11 and losing just 2 of the clashes.
“They got their first victory against Celtic last week,” he notes. “We know that we are playing against a very determined side and a very good side, with a good coach Ernst Middendorp, who’s a very good friend of mine. He has been around for many years and he will have them well organised. We need to be at our best.”
While Hunt and former Amakhosi coach Middendorp have a great professional respect for each other, the friendship will be set aside at 17:00, as the two coaches will both be looking for the valuable three points.
The two coaches first met back in the 2005-06 season when the German mentor was coach of Chiefs and Hunt was in charge of Moroka Swallows. Both games ended 1-1. In their previous 19 head-to-head league clashes as coaches in the DStv Premiership, Hunt holds the edge having won 8 of these clashes. Middendorp won 3, with 8 games ending in draws.
Hunt faces Maritzburg with a fourth different team. He previously come up against them in DStv Premiership games as coach of Moroka Swallows, SuperSport United and Bidvest Wits.
This afternoon’s action will be live on SuperSport’s PSL Channel 202 at 17:00, with ball action on Twitter @kaizerchiefs.