Underfire Mafu faces CAPS test


HARARE – Embattled Highlanders coach Bongani Mafu is back in the spotlight as CAPS United come to town in the headline fixture of a bumper Castle Lager Premiership programme on Sunday.

Mafu has enjoyed a relatively quiet week after the 1-0 victory over Dongo Mills, last Sunday, lifted Highlanders from eighth place into fourth on the log standings.

Yet anything other than an outright victory against troubled Makepekepe could leave goal-shy Highlanders back in mid-table, and possibly trigger a fresh wave of anti-Mafu sentiment across the team’s volatile support base.

Highlanders are keeping the wrong company in the goals scored column, with a meagre three goals making them the lowest in the 16-team league; a distinction they share with second- bottom Buffaloes and midlands side Chapungu.

The absence of key strikers due to injury has not helped, and the return of Simba Sithole and Ozias Zibande to full fitness means things are expected to improve going forward as pressure is relieved on teenage star Thomas Chidewu.

Bosso supporters have also been peeved by a general lack of cohesion which has characterised most of the side’s performances, this despite Mufa’s early season promise to mould an entertaining unit capable of drawing big crowds to matches.

CAPS are themselves not in the best of form, with their perennial financial woes proving a constant distraction. Mark Harrison’s charges are without victory in four league outings. The Englishman is realising that just convincing his players to fulfil a fixture is major challenge given the pervasive disgruntlement over unpaid bonuses and salaries.

A big concern to Harrison must be the form of striker Rodwell Mutuma, who has gone five matches without a goal since his opening day two-goal salvo secured a 2-1 win against WhaWha.

There were some positives to draw from the team’s 1-1 draw against ZPC Kariba last weekend however; primarily CAPS’ ability to create goal-scoring opportunities, and the improving form of Malawian youngster Gerald Phiri.

Chiredzi is the scene of another mouth watering clash as Harare City go all out to consolidate a mini-revival following a sluggish start to the new campaign, while Triangle are eager for a swift return to winning ways. City have the depth to match any in the league but coach Taurai Mangwiro has realised he needs more time to mould a cohesive unit.

Triangle’s Kevin Kaindu, on the other hand, has no such worries as he reaps the benefits of continuity with a flying start to the new season.

The Sugarcane farmers were, however, brought down to earth following last weekend’s 1-0 defeat to new comers Flame Lily, which saw the slip from the top of the standings into third. Kaindu will undoubtedly be eager to avoid a morale-shattering second-consecutive defeat.

Saturday: How Mine v Whawha (Barbourfields), ZPC Kariba v Flame Lily (Gwanzura)

Sunday: Highlanders v CAPS United (Barbourfields), Buffaloes v Chapungu (Sakubva), Hwange v Dongo Sawmill (Colliery), Triangle v Harare City (Gibbo), Dynamos v Chicken Inn (Rufaro).