JOHANNESBURG – Aware of the two-edged outcomes of winning the MTN8 crown, SuperSport United coach Kaitano Tembo is confident they’ll have enough personnel to compete week in and week out going forward.
It’s been three seasons to remember for SuperSport, having qualified for all the finals of the MTN8 in that period and winning two, in 2017 and this year.
However, their triumph in the competition three years ago had disastrous implications, as they found themselves flirting with relegation until the last day of the season, managing to finish in the top eight after benefitting from the Tendai Ndoro saga.
That omen was not something new in South African football. Ironically though there are teams that have used winning the MTN8 to be the fuel that drives them to the PSL title later in the season.
For two years in a row, 2015 and 2016, Kaizer Chiefs and Wits won the MTN8 and ended up as league champions nine months later.
Having won this year’s MTN8 title after defeating Highlands Park 1-0 in the final at Orlando Stadium on Saturday, SuperSport are confident that they have enough depth to be at their best in the league.
“It’s normal (to have ups and downs). But I think we have the experience regarding that situation,” Tembo said.
“We always try to be humble, and keep our feet on the ground. We’ve got a young team and there’s young exciting players that are coming up. So, we’ve got to remind them that they are only as good as their last game. And every game is different.”
Tembo’s confidence that they should be able to sail past the troubled waters when the going gets tough later in the season is drawn from his profound relationship with his players.
On Saturday, striker Thamsanqa Gabuza made an emotional confession about the sacrifice he had to make to ensure that his team were at their best on the day, admitting that on Monday he lost his son, who was buried on Thursday, but kept that to himself as he didn’t want to bring a sombre atmosphere to SuperSport’s dressing-room.
Gabuza used the pain to inspire Matsantsa to success on Saturday, with a man-of-the-match performance.
“Having had to go through that and still play the way he did, play a man-of-the-match performance like that in light of what happened, I think for me I dedicate this win and this Cup to him because I think from day one that he really deserves it,” Tembo said.
“I think that’s the only sad part for me and it’s already hitting that someone can do that probably doing it for the team and doing it for me. I appreciate that, but at the very same time I’m also hurting.”
Having been part of SuperSport’s structures for the last two decades, Tembo knows the set-up of the club like the back of his hand.
He has, after all, captained the team, earned his stripes through coaching in the junior ranks and deputised to a number of coaches before finally assuming the hot seat permanently last season.
That’s why it was only befitting that in his 11-month stint as head coach, he wins his first Cup final.