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SA SOCCER NEWS
Are Kaizer Chiefs going to choke? 13/05/04
Kaizer Chiefs are in pole position as the Castle Premiership title race enters it's last hurdle, but can the Amakhosi handle the pressure and emerge as champions when the final league games are played on June 9?

Long-time Chiefs fans will remember in 1987 how, with only a point needed from their last three games in order to claim the championship, the Soweto club blew it by losing all three matches - in their last game they lost to Bush Bucks, a side they had never beaten them up until that point.

SASoccer365's Anthony McLennan looks at why Chiefs are going to have an almighty task on their hands to please their long-suffering fans by bringing home the sought-after league title.

Pressure. This is going to be the club's major stumbling block which they are going to have to overcome.

Pressure can affect even the best of teams and the Amakhosi playing squad are going to feel an incredible amount of pressure from the massive country-wide support the team commands as they go into their final four games.

The country's number one glamour club has not won the league title in 12 seasons and the fans are growing impatient, something which the players will be acutely aware of.

In the seven seasons since the Premier Soccer League was launched, Chiefs have four times finished in the runners up spot and also once claimed a third-placed finish, and this constant failure is sure to have bred an atmosphere of being the 'perennial bridesmaids' at Naturena.

This will all be in the back of the minds of the players as they take to the field for the final few games, and having anything but the current match in mind is likely to prove detrimental on the day.

A big disadvantage that coach Ted Dumitru faces is that, of his current starting line-up, not one of his players have ever won a league title, including veteran John 'Shoes' Moshoeu.

Players like Tenashe Nengomashe, Stanton Fredericks, Sibusiso Dlamini, David Radebe, Derrick Spencer and Rowen Fernandez all come from 'smaller' clubs and have not been exposed to this level of pressure before.

Dumitru and his two assistant coaches, Doctor Khumalo and Donald Khuse, may have tasted glory before, but not one of the current players have ever experienced going all the way in the league race.

This much-needed experience, and winning mentality, becomes vital as the campaign moves into it's final stages because in the late stages of the season winning becomes more of test of mental toughness than a physical one.

There is no question that Amakhosi possess the most talented squad in the country and by this stage of the season they are fit and know exactly what is expected of them, but this is not always enough as mental strength or big match temperament becomes such a vital factor when the race goes down to the wire.

The other disadvantage the Phefeni Glamour Boys face is a very tricky run in to the end of the season.

They start off with a tough game this Sunday against a team that will be fighting desperately for their Premiership survival, Zulu Royals.

Next up is an away trip to Cape Town to face former PSL champions Santos, and Johannesburg-based teams have traditionally found the going extremely difficult in the Mother City, especially at the Athlone Stadium in the middle of winter.

Following this is a clash with fellow Soweto side, the unpredictable Moroka Swallows and then the final game against the well-drilled Wits University and Dumitru will certainly not want to go into this match with the outcome of the title chase still hanging in the balance.

The team which is expected to challenge Chiefs all the way, Ajax Cape Town, certainly don't have an easy end to their campaign either, as they face Sundowns, Orlando Pirates (both at home), Moroka Swallows at the Rand Stadium, Black Leopards in Thohoyandou and Hellenic at Newlands.

However, Ajax hold the advantage that they have no weight of expectations on their collective shoulders - last season they came desperately close to being relegated, so a second placed finish will still be seen as a major success by the club and it's fans

The Hellenic game could well end up being the match that decides the season - if their fate is already sealed and they are set for a return to the First Division then the Urban Warriors should have an easy task in collecting maximum points, but if the Greek Gods still have a chance of surviving the drop then Gordon Igesund's men will be made to fight all the way if they hope to lift the cup.

But at the end of the day Chiefs still hold theri own destiny and it is up to them to ensure that they wrap up the title by the time Ajax play Hellenic.

Will Chiefs go all the way, or will they choke?

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