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Fatigue is Sundowns` fear

Fri 13 Dec by Mark Gleeson

StoryOfWeek

Eric Tinkler might not have the charisma or attract the media spotlight of many of his counterparts in the Premier Soccer League, but the Maritzburg United coach has long had their respect.He is regarded among the hardest-working and best-prepared coaches in the PSL and it is no coincidence he takes Maritzburg United into tomorrow’s Telkom Knockout final against Mamelodi Sundowns in Durban, less than a year after arriving at a club in dire relegation trouble.Not only did he save the team from dropping down to the National First Division by winning the post-season promotion-relegation playoffs, but he has since helped them to kick on and again attain a respectability in the top flight.Ironically, Maritzburg’s woes started soon after they reached their only previous cup final.After losing 1-0 to Free State Stars in the 2018 Nedbank Cup decider in Cape Town, they crashed spectacularly as rookie coach Fadlu Davids struggled to find the answers to their downward spiral.Mushin Ertugral came in to try and turn around the situation, but proved a disaster and it was the arrival of Tinkler that slowly set in motion their survival.Now Maritzburg stand on the brink of a first-ever piece of silverware, although they will start as underdogs against Sundowns, who are no strangers to the pressured atmosphere of a cup final.Maritzburg are a hardy outfit with a few skilful players, but have little of the individual quality that Sundowns possess. It is their ability to stay disciplined in defence and a quick eye for an opportunity upfront that is their likely recipe for an upset tomorrow.The way Maritzburg ripped apart Kaizer Chiefs in the semi-final will have certainly grabbed Pitso Mosimane’s attention.Sundowns’ primary concern will be fatigue after the lengthy journey to Morocco and back, via Paris, for the African Champions League action last Saturday, plus Wednesday’s league game at Loftus Versfeld against Stellenbosch FC.Sundowns originally wanted that game postponed, but then asked for it to be re-instated when they realised it would be the last game of Gaston Sirino’s suspension and thus allow him to play in tomorrow’s final.

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