Dikwena beat Ivory Coast’s AS Tanda 5-4 on penatlies after overturning a 2-0 deficit from the first leg in Abidjan a week earlier, to progress to the next phase of the continental tournament, where they are already guaranteed R3.6-million simply for their participation. This means Johnson and his men will hardly have a break at the end of the current PSL season.
But in an interview on Monday, the coach gave the impression he was hardly bothered by fact he will be buried in work during what will be a winter recess for his counterparts.
“I can work everyday for 24-hours, if I have to,” said Johnson. “I believe we have a trump card. No disrespect to the other teams in the country, but I think at Platinum Stars we have the best facilities.
“If you want normal and artificial pitches, we have them. You need cold or hot pools? We have got them.
“And the truth is my backroom staff is up to date by keeping in touch with modern trends and with teams that have been in this situation before, like Sundowns, a team we have learnt a lot from.”
It’s no exaggeration, Dikwena’s Sports Campus in Phokeng is world class and housed the England national team during the 2010 World Cup. Not only does it boast the luxurious five-star Royal Marang Hotel, but it also includes several sports facilities - among them a fully equipped medical and rehabilitation centre.
Johnson is adamant that this is the key to seriously competing on all fronts, especially next season when participation in the CAF tournaments usually take it’s toll on South African teams, as evidenced by Orlando Pirates a season ago and Sundowns to an extent, although the plethora of depth and talent in their squad has helped the Brazilians cope.
“I have picked up that you need mental and physical freshness to remain focused, and that is something I am learning now from Sundowns and I am in constant communication with Pitso Mosimane and his assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena,” explained Johnson. “Right now I have told my players that for now CAF is finished (the draw for the group stages is set for April 26) and we must focus on improving our league form and try and get as far as possible in the Nedbank Cup. I told them we didn’t qualify for the Confederation Cup out of luck, we did so because we finished in third place last season. I want to see that same desire.”
Dikwena, who are in 11th place with eight matches remaining, were not the only SA side flying the flag at the weekend, with SuperSport United shaking off their 5-0 humiliation against Tshwane rivals Sundowns in a league game last Thursday, by scoring five goals themselves to beat Liberia’s Barrack Young Controllers 6-1 on aggregate to qualify for the group stages of the same competition.
Bidvest Wits, however, travelled to Alexandria in Egypt to face Smouha and were beaten 1-0, giving the home side passage to the next round after the goalless draw in Johannesburg seven days prior.
Stuart Baxter, the SuperSport coach, expressed relief, seeing how his men reacted to a defeat that dented their championship hopes.
“It’s been a balancing act all the time in that with every round of the CAF games we have had a long journey and come back to plan an important league match,” said Baxter.
“You could see there was a response in the way we played. It was back to basics and it shows what we have been doing is working. I was absolutely satisfied after what happened on Thursday against Sundowns.”