Larsen v Rosslee: a battle of young minds

When AmaZulu and Maritzburg United lock horns in the KwaZulu-Natal derby on Sunday, the Absa Premiership contest will bring together two of South Africa's more promising young coaches, Craig Rosslee and Clinton Larsen.

The former has done a sterling job since taking over at the helm of Usuthu just over 10 months, while the latter turned Bloemfontein Celtic into a real force over the past three years, before switching to the Team of Choice in the last 10 days.

While the focus is bound to be on the field, a lot of what actually transforms will come from the tactical astuteness of the two rival bosses.

Rosslee, 43, has enjoyed an almost dream start to what is his first full season in Durban, although that was badly tarnished this week when AmaZulu were hammered 7-1 by table-toppers Mamelodi Sundowns.

Still, AmaZulu lie fifth on the table with three wins from seven games.

Larsen, 42, on the other hand had found 2013/14 much tougher than the highs of last season when he guided Siwelele to the Telkom Knockout crown.

After just one win in six games left the club in 11th and following punishing defeats on their way to early elimination from the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout, he resigned and joined the Team of Choice.

His first game in charge on Wednesday ended in a 1-0 home defeat to another form team, SuperSport United, but there was plenty of promise to suggest that the Larsen-Maritzburg partnership have all the makings for a solid future.

For not many would doubt his pedigree and profile having transformed Celtic into one of the more entertaining teams in the league through his attack-minded philosophy.

Larsen, a former Manning Rangers and Orlando Pirates midfielder, began his coaching career at Maritzburg as assistant coach to Gordon Igesund in 2008/09, before moving to Celtic as Owen da Gama's number two for a season, followed by the head coach role - in which he guided the club to three top eight finishes.

Rosslee's story is not too dissimilar. After coming through the Ajax Cape Town coaching system, the former Santos and Hellenic defender took charge of the Urban Warriors between 2007 and 2009 winning the Telkom Knockout, before leaving to become assistant of Ruud Krol in Pirates' treble-winning team.

Both men will now be looking to claim supremacy in KZN as they clash for the first time in the derby.

And both have enormous respect for each other.

"Clinton has done fantastically well in his career," Rosslee said. "He's a Telkom Knockout winner and I know that he's very ambitious and attack-minded.

"So I know we'll be up against a coach, whose side will play in that attacking mode. He's very ambitious, so we can expect a real battle on Sunday."

Larsen was equally praiseworthy for his rival manager.

" Craig's a very good coach, I mean he proved that at Ajax and last season at AmaZulu," he said. "I don’t think it's a fluke the work that he's been doing and it's going to be a tough encounter on Sunday."