Stars coaches warn Chiefs
Johannesburg - Kaizer Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic and Platinum Stars coach Owen da Gama sent their respective deputies, Ace Khuse and Willem Jackson, to Wednesday's pre-match media conference before Sunday's opening-round Telkom Challenge Cup clash at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg.
De Gama warned the Amakhosi that Stars were planning some unpleasant surprises for the team who have dominated this lucrative competition in recent years.
Winners of the Telkom Cup, which now boasts a handsome R4,25-million in prize money for the winners, in three of the last four years and on five of the last eight occasions, Chiefs look upon this particular event as their "own baby."
But De Gama pointed out that while Stars might occupy a modest 10th position in the Premier League log, they remained unbeaten this season at their Royal Bafokeng stronghold and had already accounted for teams of the calibre of Ajax Cape Town and Bloemfontein Celtic at the Rustenburg venue.
"We might have surrendered some needless and unfortunate points in our away matches," added the Stars coach, "but it's a different story in home games where we have amassed 10 goals and only conceded four in all games.
"And while we know Chiefs have a massive following wherever they play," our own followers will match them and boost our chances of upsetting the Cup holders."
Jackson, meanwhile, believes Stars are going from strength to strength and once they reverse some "photo finish defeats" in away encounters, they will climb up the Premier League table and secure a place among the top eight teams.
And while Chiefs assistant coach Khuse, an icon for The Amakhosi during his playing career, admitted the Naturena glamour club were at a tricky point in their build-up for the season and have placed regaining the PSL League title at the top of the list of their priorities, they believe they can still maintain their ascendancy in the Telkom Cup.
"We are presently in the progress of blending seasoned players who have served the club well over a number of years with a crop of a highly talented youngsters," said Khuse, "and it will take a little time to find the right blend.
"But we will get there," added the Chiefs coach with an air of serene confidence.
Khuse, however, admitted that one of the most difficult hurdles to manage is the impatience of supporters who demand instant success.
"Chiefs have the greatest and most enthusiastic supporters in the country, but they are jealous of the club's reputation and don't like losing.
"However," said Khuse, "this only adds to the pressure on the players and makes it more difficult for the young newcomers to make their mark."
Encouraging news for Chiefs is that forceful midfielder Mandla Masango appears to have overcome an injury he suffered in a PSL game against Moroka Swallows in August and has returned to full training.
Bafana and Chiefs goalkeepeer Itumeleng Khune, however, is still nursing an injury and is likely to be replaced by evergreen veteran Arthur Bartman.