Baroka's Wedson Nyirenda aiming to upset Wits' Gavin Hunt
Baroka FC coach Wedson Nyirenda must have had cup competitions as the least of his priorities in his first season as the head coach of the Limpopo team.
Given the start his team has had in the league, survival was always going to be the task that Bakgaga were going to put on top of their pressing matters.
After playing 12 rounds of Absa Premiership matches, Nyirenda's team is languishing in a precarious 12th spot on the log table after winning just two, drawing four and losing six of their league matches.
The Zambia-born Nyirenda, who was a hot Kaizer Chiefs striker between 1993 and 1995, says he's been encouraged by their last league result, which was a 2-1 away win over Lamontville Golden Arrows - the team they have beaten twice this season if you count their 2-0 Telkom Knockout first round victory at home.
VICTORY NO FLUKE
That league victory over Arrows followed Baroka's surprise 2-0 win over Mamelodi Sundowns in the last eight of the Telkom knockout (TKO) in Polokwane - a match Nyirenda missed as he was away in Zambia for his mother's burial.
Of his team's win over Sundowns, Nyirenda (52) insisted it was not a fluke as he left his assistant Matsemela Thoka with a game plan he knew would do the trick against Pitso Mosimane's highly rated side.
"Our win over Sundowns was not a surprise nor a fluke to me," said Nyirenda of the triumph that booked them a semifinal spot where they will host TKO defending champions Bidvest Wits at Peter Mokaba Stadium at 3pm today.
"Our result against Sundowns brought a lot of relief to me because I was so heartbroken [by his mother's death] and up to now I'm still trying to recover.
"I think it was a great job by my players, the technical team and everyone behind the club. They did extremely well to carry the programme that I had left."
Nyirenda said he has high regard for his counterpart at Wits, Gavin Hunt, who was his captain at Hellenic after the end of his stint at Chiefs in 1995.
"The players look focused and highly motivated because we are playing one of the big teams in Wits. I have so much respect for coach Gavin. He's a great coach and a very good guy. Being my former captain at Hellenic I know how he works. He's the man who thrives on excellence and likes success."
A BRIGHTER FUTURE
Nyirenda said he's seen a lot of improvement in South African football compared to the days he played in this country before embarking on a coaching career that reached a climax when he was appointed head coach of the Zambian national team in 2017.
"I think the PSL can be one of the best leagues, even better than some in Europe," said Nyirenda, who scored two goals when Chiefs beat Sundowns 3-2 in the 1994 BP Top 8 final.
Of the Chiefs of today who have gone three years without winning a trophy, Nyirenda said: "I think there are a few things missing in the current Chiefs team but I still believe good things are coming for them."
As for his team, Nyirenda is hoping his Zimbabwean playmaker Talent Chawapiwa will inspire Bakgaga to their first cup final after coming close twice in the Nedbank Cup in 2011 when they were still a third-tier side, and in 2016/17, which was their debut season in the PSL's top flight.