Samir Nurkovic of Kaizer Chiefs. Picture: LEFTY SHIVAMBU / GALLO IMAGES
Samir Nurkovic of Kaizer Chiefs. Picture: LEFTY SHIVAMBU / GALLO IMAGES

Kaizer Chiefs striker Leonardo Castro is relishing his partnership with Samir Nurković‚ saying he could not have been paired with a better player as Amakhosi go for their first Premiership title in five years.

Chiefs play Maritzburg United at the FNB Stadium on Saturday and with a game in hand and a nine-point advantage over second-placed Orlando Pirates‚ Amakhosi are favourites to win their first league title with German coach Ernst Middendorp.

Castro was on the verge of being offloaded by Chiefs at the beginning of the season after struggling to impress after joining the club in January 2018 from Mamelodi Sundowns.

But after playing himself back into favour with good performances in the off-season‚ all was forgotten as he also found his best partner in Slovakia-born Nurkovic.

“When I got the chance to play I was making sure to score and get the results for the team and for myself‚” said Castro of his determination to stay at Naturena.

“I’m always a person who is strong in my mind and I’m working hard at training to contribute to the team. Whether it’s a friendly or an official game, I take the responsibility.

“I knew that if I’m doing all right [in the off-season] I might get a chance in the official games. The coach gave me a chance and I took it‚ simple as that.”

The two tall strikers have contributed 17 of Chiefs’ 38 league goals in 19 matches this season and Castro‚ who is yet to sign a new contract with the club‚ praised Nurkovic for helping him settle at Naturena.

“It’s easy to play with Samir because we can hold the ball for the team and we can make them play as well‚” said the 30-year-old Colombian striker.

“When there’s pressure they can find us there at the top. Either it’s Samir or me but we can play together and we know that if one is going wide the other needs to be in the box to finish the action. So it’s been good‚ we understand each other on the field.”

Castro added it was not important who scored the most goals at this stage of the season.

“The most important thing is making sure‚ no matter who scores‚ we need to win every game‚” said Castro. “So either it’s [Eric] Mathoho who is scoring‚ [Daniel] Cardoso‚ [Lebogang] Manyama ... no matter who is scoring‚ the most important thing is to make sure that we get the three points.”

Castro admitted it is vital they do not disappoint their fans as Chiefs are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.

“This season is special for the club and for SA. So 50 years for us means we need to deliver‚” he said. “I think the whole squad knows and realises we need to win the league. You can see it during the games, we’re fighting. If we’re losing we’re fighting to get back into the game. That’s the mentality that all the players have right now.”

Castro said Chiefs’ main strength this season has been thinking more about how they approach each game than worrying about the opposition.

“We’re focusing on ourselves‚ on what we need to do. We all know who we’re playing against. This is our strength ... focusing on ourselves. We all know about Maritzburg United‚ and that they’ve got quality players and it’s a good team.

“It’s been tough for us when we have played against them but we’re working hard to get the results. We all know what happened in past games against them‚ maybe they scored against us because of our mistakes. So we need to be mentally focused  and don’t make stupid mistakes because they’re going to take their chances.”