The Maritzburg United players are ready to give everything they have in order to maintain the club’s Absa Premiership status, starting on Wednesday against Orlando Pirates.
The Team of Choice host log leaders Pirates at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Wednesday evening, 19H30 kick off, and then play Black Leopards, SuperSport United and Baroka FC in their remaining league fixtures.
In his own playing days, United head coach Eric Tinkler was known for his tenacious never-say-die attitude, and he will be looking to inspire his players to show similar character reserves over the next three weeks.
“I will always believe, that’s the kind of character I am, I fight until the end,” he said. “And right now we have four cup finals. We can’t be selective.
“Orlando Pirates, tough game, but we should be motivated to play against Orlando Pirates. The win is even more important now than in seasons gone by, this season it’s about our survival and collecting three points against Pirates is extremely important to us.
“We’ve seen throughout the season, teams are beatable. As long as you apply yourself in the correct manner, and you must have that belief that you can.”
While the Team of Choice will have a plan to keep the dangerous Bucs attackers in check, coach Eric has also highlighted the importance of taking the game to the opponent and showing bravery in the attacking half of the field as well.
“The players are well aware of the situation the club finds itself in, and the position they find themselves in. It’s about dealing with it, responding in a positive manner, not panicking, not playing with fear.
“Our problem against Highlands Park wasn’t in defence, our problem was that we created nothing going forward. We didn’t keep the ball long enough, we didn’t play our brand of football, that comes out of fear of losing, and we have to get that out.
“We seem to change our mindset at home, playing more attacking and offensive football, and so we’ll need to remind them of that.”
Maritzburg left-back Mxolisi Kunene has been in relegation battles before with his previous club and understands the importance of remaining calm and composed in tough situations.
“The senior players must take responsibility. We’ve been talking since day one, but now we need to act and start to win games,” he said.
“We’re fighting for our lives, fighting for the people of Maritzburg. If we can win three and draw one, I think we could be safe. We’re not targeting the play-offs, we want to be safe.
“We believe in ourselves and we are going to fight until the end. I’ve been in this situation before, it’s not the first time for me – at Baroka it was the same, but we managed to save the team. The chairman is always encouraging us, giving us hope we can still make it, he’s not throwing in the towel.”
The first round encounter between the two sides in Soweto ended 0-0, as did last season’s corresponding match in Pietermaritzburg. The season before that, Maritzburg managed a 2-1 home win over Bucs.
In 26 encounters between the two clubs, Maritzburg have won six, with six draws and 14 wins for Pirates.