JOHANNESBURG – The first half of the PSL season belongs to Tshwane!
This follows after native clubs, SuperSport United and Mamelodi Sundowns, dominated the South African domestic league. And what makes this even more soothing to take in, is how the master and his protégé proved to be cut from the same cloth.
The pair guided SuperSport and Sundowns to the first two silverwares of the season, the MTN8 and Telkom Knockout trophies respectively.
Pitso Mosimane, the teacher, and Kaitano Tembo, the student, first met at SuperSport almost a decade ago. The former was still the head coach, while Tembo was the player before cutting his coaching teeth at the club’s academy.
In 2012, after a roller-coaster stint with Bafana Bafana, Mosimane joined cross-town rivals Sundowns, before Tembo graduated to the permanent role of coaching SuperSport’s first team from the 2018/2019 season following numerous spells as assistant.
Tembo was the first to take coup in the top-flight football this season, scooping the MTN8 trophy following a victory over Highlands Park in the final at Orlando Stadium.
And that triumph was inspired by the club’s development products and an immense sacrifice from one of the seasoned campaigners.
Ronwen Williams, Sipho Mbule, Teboho Mokoena and Jamie Webber, who’ve all graduated from the club’s academy, ensured that they churned out their best as they helped the team to a historic third successive MTN8 final.
And having already won one of the past two editions, the club’s proteges had to do it for their master, Tembo, when they went toe-to-toe with Bidvest Wits in the quarter-finals, Sundowns in the semi-finals and Highlands in the final.
But few will forget the sacrifice made by striker Thamsanqa Gabuza. Building up to the week of the final, the 32-year-old marksman lost his son. But he kept that to him, and didn’t attend the funeral, to prevent bringing a sombre atmosphere to camp.
It was only after the final, where he put on a Man-of-the Match winning performance, that he broke the news to his teammates who were all caught off guard by the incident.
From there on, Sundowns took over the championship baton, ensuring the nation’s capital scooped all the bragging rights in the first half of the season.
Last Saturday, the Brazilians were crowned the Telkom Knockout champions after pulling off a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Maritzburg United at Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Mosimane has always made it clear that his team’s targets are the Grand Slams - the Absa Premiership and Caf Champions League. And he hasn’t failed in that regard after winning the domestic league on four occasions and Pan-African competition once in his seven-year reign at the club.
However, there’s always been a yearning “small voice” from the Brazilians faithful about the club’s inability to put in the shift in domestic cup competition, having only won the Telkom Knockout and Nedbank Cup since 2012.
And with a bit of squad rotation to accommodate their tight schedule this term, Sundowns finally got their first domestic trophy in four seasons, almost setting a tone they are ready to challenge for everything up for grabs.
As if things couldn’t get better for the clubs from Tshwane in 2019! With a round of matches remaining before the festive recess, the two Pretoria giants, SuperSport and Sundowns, will finish the year third and second on the Premiership standings respectively.