Cavin Johnson hopes to engineer a turnaround at AmaZulu. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

DURBAN – As AmaZulu prepare for their Absa Premiership comeback, the main challenge for new coach Cavin Johnson will be to ensure the players have the right mindset.

Coming into the job after AmaZulu parted with Zimbabwean coach Joey Antipas less than a fortnight before their league opener against Free State Stars, Johnson was optimistic about the journey ahead.

Having worked at start-up clubs like Ajax Cape Town and Platinum Stars, and helped them establish stable foundations, the coach believed he could do similar work in Durban.

He won’t be the first coach Usuthu have placed their faith in to return the club to the glory years of the 1970s and 80s.

In recent times Neil Tovey, Manqoba Mngqithi, Roger Palmgren, Craig Rosslee and Antipas were among those to come and go.

However, under the current circumstances, Johnson comes with top-flight pedigree and expertise in youth development, factors that could be critical for this mix-and-match squad.

“The challenge is to get into the players’ heads. The challenge is not to identify whether they are good players or fit players. The challenge is to make sure they understand the football you’re trying to play,” said Johnson. 

“The brain never gets tired, so the challenge is to get them mentally prepared for the next three to five games so that you can settle down and understand what you need to do technically and tactically.

“AmaZulu did not do bad in the NFD last season, and AmaZulu cannot be hopeless in the PSL this year. I need to get into the players’ mentality and make them understand what we’re going to do come the first game against Free State Stars.”

Prior to Johnson’s arrival, AmaZulu – who bought the status of promoted Thanda Royal Zulu to return to the PSL – had already dipped into the transfer market.

In came goalkeeper Boalefa Pule and Michael Morton from Johnson’s former club Supersport United, Togolese defender Sadate Ouro-Akoriko and highly-rated defender Ayabulela Konqobe.

“We guarantee that we will hit the ground with a good performance of football. They always say that when you come from the NFD, the players are not quality enough or lack experience.

“But with the players that they brought in from the PSL and the players they mixed from the NFD, the team looks okay; it looks like it can do something,” said Johnson.

Siyabonga Nomvethe scored 17 goals last season. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

He will rely on the experience that veteran strikers Mabhuti Khenyeza and Siyabonga Nomvethe provide, but also looked forward to the vibrancy that the younger players bring to the squad.

“Mabhuti is a very intelligent player and so is Nomvethe. At age 39, if Nomvethe can score the same goals (17) he scored last year, he’ll be the top scorer in the PSL.

“If Nomvethe does what he does normally, which is scoring goals, then he’ll be on the pitch all the time.”

The Mercury