Heat a factor in title race, says Hunt

SuperSport United coach Gavin Hunt reckons there are going to be many more upsets in the Absa Premiership before the end of December, due to clubs playing three matches per week.

The clubs will play another six matches in the next three weeks and Hunt, who has won back-to-back Premiership titles with United, said while he was not concerned with the punishing schedule, he was worried about the PSL scheduling matches during hot summer afternoons.

Hunt takes his table-topping United to Wellington where they face third placed Ajax Cape Town at the Boland Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. Kick-off is at 3.30pm and the United coach is not pleased about another tough afternoon fixture.

Hunt had 11 players at training on Sunday after they drew 0-0 with Bloemfontein Celtic at Loftus on a steamy Pretoria Saturday afternoon.

Said Hunt: “I am not worried about playing three games per week. That we can handle.
What we cannot handle is playing in the afternoons in the heat of summer.

“Frankly the heat is killing my players and those of other teams who are forced to play in the midsummer heat. It is sheer madness.”

Hunt added that playing in scorching heat also robs the fans of entertainment as players are performing well below par.

“My plea to the PSL is to schedule all the games during this period at night and the clubs will have no complaints. We all accept we need to finish the league season early to held Bafana Bafana prepare for the World Cup, but we should not put players’ health at risk.

“I know Wellington well and this weekend the temperatures there soared to around 40 degrees.

“Matches at night are better because players have more energy playing in cool conditions. I realise due to the construction and upgrading of stadiums for the World Cup we have venue problems, but it makes no sense to force clubs to play in the afternoon when they could easily play at night.”

Hunt said the 0-0 draw with Celtic was a poor match due to the hot and humid conditions. “It was a terrible game played at walking pace because of the heat.

“Afterwards my players were flat on their backs. All the grounds have floodlights so why not use them in summer.”

Hunt is one of a legion of leading coaches who over the years have pleaded with the PSL not to schedule afternoon games during peak summer.

Hunt has support from Kaizer Chiefs coach Vladimir Vermezovic who complained of the searing heat in the first half of Amakhosi’s 3-0 win over BidVest Wits at Milpark on Sunday.

Said the Serbian coach: “Playing in the afternoon in this heat is not good for anybody, especially the players.

“Neither side could play in the first half due to the hot conditions. But when the temperature cooled down in the second half it was different and players were able to play and more freely.”

Hunt has four players on the serious injury list. Out is midfielder Thandani Ntshumayelo, who was injured during the Celtic match.

“The Celtic player should have been sent off for the tackle that almost broke Thandani’s leg. He will not start against Ajax.”

Other walking wounded such as striker Glen Salmon (calf), defender Morgan Gould (hamstring) and midfielder Siyabonga Nkosi (groin) are also doubtful.

Hunt is also worried about a backlash from Ajax after they were beaten 1-0 in a Cape derby against second-placed Santos at the weekend.

“Ajax will be determined to bounce back after that defeat and know that if they beat us, they gap will be closed. That is why it is important for us to keep picking up points both at home and on the road to keep the pressure up at the top of the table.”

United head the standings with 37 points with Ajax on 28 after 18 matches.

The Pretoria outfit are six points ahead of their main rivals Santos. The title is likely to be decided before the Christmas recess on December 20 where all clubs will have completed 24 fixtures and will have four remaining in February.—Sapa

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