Serbian coach Vladislav Heric, who has been reunited with his former team Chippa United, will take up his first task today when his side play against the Free State Stars in the Nedbank Cup last 16 fixture at Goble Park (3.30pm).
Heric took office this week, replacing Teboho Moloi who was booted out for failure to produce results.
The former Bay United coach steps in at a very crucial time when Chippa are in need of points to avoid relegation.
A win today could bring some comfort to Chippa boss Siviwe Mpengesi to indicate he has made the correct choice by bringing Heric in.
Chippa had an incredible run in the Nedbank Cup competition last year before they were booted out by SuperSport United in the semifinals on penalties.
Heric will be expected to follow that trail or go as far as winning the tournament.
Aware of the pressure that goes with today’s game, Heric said he was looking forward to the match.
“We have a very tough game, it’s not going to be easy,” he said.
“I am not undermining our opponents – they are very good, but we are also good. I am not undermining my players as well. I am looking forward to this game and I am happy that all eyes will be on me today.
“It will be difficult to play at Goble Park, but in a cup game anything can happen.
“The cup is something else – it’s not like the league, there is lot of pressure in the cup because if you lose you are out, and in the league it’s not like that.
“As we have pressure, they also have pressure.
“There are some advantage and disadvantages, and we will try to use our strength as much as possible.”
The coach said his focus point this week during training was to teach his players to keep concentration at all times.
“Games are no longer 90 minutes, they are 100 minutes long now, so the players have to keep concentration for 100 minutes of the game.
“The other thing is decisionmaking. It is very poor and they have to improve their reaction speed. If you master those three aspects of the game you can go far.”
Meanwhile, Ea Lla Koto coach Luc Eymael is wary of player burnout in the final few months of the season as the club push for twin honours in the Absa Premiership and Nedbank Cup.
Eymael‚ who was a physical education teacher back home in Belgium‚ has devised a special programme to ensure that his players are not overworked in what is a crucial time of the campaign.
“I have a very good fitness trainer at the club in Riedoh Berdien and I know what I am talking about too‚ so we speak the same language in what we are trying to achieve‚” he said.
“Even this week‚ on Tuesday we had a very light session‚ almost just recovery‚ and we build up through the week to our game on the weekend.
“It is important to make sure we have the players in top condition and to limit injuries. You cannot train in this period how you would in other parts of the season.
“You have to have specific plans and you must look after the players a little bit.”
Berdien is also fitness trainer for the Togolese national team.
Stars are on a fantastic run of form that has seen them lose just once in the last 11 games‚ elevating the team to third in the league and keeping them in contention for the Nedbank Cup.
It certainly seems to be paying dividends. The club have scored 25% of their league goals in the final 15 minutes of matches‚ suggesting they are finishing games strongly. — Additional reporting by Nick Said