Pitso Mosimane has become the latest former Bafana Bafana coach who has redeemed himself by winning the PSL title. He has achieved this just a season after Stuart Baxter erased his palooka days as national team coach following his league title win with Kaizer Chiefs.
Mosimane pleaded with Mamelodi Sundowns fans to give him time to build a squad that would conquer the PSL and eventually the continent. Turns out he only needed a season to turn them in champions after years of misery and mediocrity at Sundowns.
He’s now become the first black South African coach to win the PSL title and has inspired many other black coaches out there who are struggling to get recognised in the lower leagues.
So, how did Mosimane get it right with a Downs side that has under-achieved for five years?
Signing a whole new team
Sundowns were criticised for raiding the transfer market to practically sign a whole team. It seemed ridiculous to me as well, but the truth is, the players that were signed are players Mosimane wanted and believed would bring him success.
When he joined the club last season, there was very little he could do to change the squad, so he just had to work with what was at his disposal until the end of the campaign.
When the time came to sign players, Mosimane went all out. And he signed well, bringing in Khama Billiat, Bongani Zungu, Dove Wome, Cuthbert Malajila, Kennedy Mweene and ... well, I’d go on, but I’d run out of space to finish this column.
The point is, most of these players have played a role in the club’s success this season. The rest, he says, are for the future – the likes of Tiyani Mabunda, Rodney Ramagalela and Raymond Monama. It shows he wants to build sustainable success.
Giving players a chance
Players like Anthony Laffor, Surprise Moriri and Lebohang Mokoena must have thought their time at the club was up when Mosimane signed over 10 players during the pre-season, but they were back in the team as soon as Billiat and Zungu were lost to injuries.
When these players came back from injury, they did not walk straight back into the line-up. They had to fight to regain their places. No one was guaranteed a place in the team, which creates healthy competition.
Mosimane kept his squad happy, which can be difficult sometimes when there are so many egos.
Making Schut the captain
The captain’s armband was taken away from Teko Modise and handed over to big Dutchman Alje Schut. In Schut, Sundowns have found a good leader, which is what they desperately needed. He is vocal and organises the defence well. Next season, Schut would probably want to use his height to get some goals for the club.
Signing Thabo Nthethe
In January, Mosimane finally got his man after failing to sign him midway through last season. Before Nthethe joined Sundowns, the club had kept one clean sheet. However, when he slotted in alongside Schut at the back, Sundowns were not easily breached. The cool, calm defender brought stability to a vulnerable rearguard. From having just one clean sheet in the first half of the season, Sundowns have kept nine in the second half.
Getting the best out of Modise
Mosimane has turned Modise into a workaholic in the Downs midfield. The player was known only for attacking in the past, hardly helping out in defence. But these days, Modise plays deeper. He defends a lot more and can still drive the team forward with his passes. He has re-invented himself this season and is as influential as ever.
Knowing his opponents
Mosimane knows his opponents and knows how they play. He can give you a possible line-up of a team he is playing against, and can tell you the strengths and weaknesses of almost all the players in the league. He attends a lot of matches, and if he can’t, his assistants and the scouts at Sundowns attend the matches so that they can give him the information he needs. He respects his opposition, big or small.
Follow Tshepang on Twitter @T_Mailwane - Saturday Star