JOHANNESBURG - Will SuperSport United pay the price twice for coach Eric Tinkler’s decision to rotate his squad this early in the season?
The Matsatsantsa mentor rang the changes in his side’s 1-1 Absa Premiership draw at home against Chippa United on Tuesday night, resting some key players for the trip to Zambia to face ZESCO United in the second leg of their CAF Confederation Cup quarter-final at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium on Saturday.
Tinkler admitted he was puzzled by the lethargic approach from his charges in a fixture that would have pushed them closer to the top of the table had they won it.
“It shouldn’t be an excuse, but was it because we played so many games in a short while? Or was it because I made so many changes because we have an upcoming game? I don’t know to be honest,” the coach had told reporters following a deflating draw against a Chippa outfit that was still adjusting to having a new coach in Teboho Moloi.
There can be two ways to analyse Tinkler’s decision to rotate.
Firstly, it is understandable why the coach would have felt the need to try and make sure he had fresh legs going into the ZESCO clash given the number of games SuperSport have played so far, including making it all the way to the final of the MTN8, where they will face Cape Town City on October 14 in Durban.
And looking at his squad, there is enough depth in the team to have been able to fight for a winning result against Chippa.
Secondly, the coach tempered with the team’s momentum - resting a total of six players with his eye on reaching the semi-final of the Confederation Cup.
SuperSport enjoyed the lion’s share of the ball possession, taking the lead through Siyabonga Nhlapho in the 28th minute before going to sleep and allowing Moeketsi Sekola to grab the equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
It wasn’t a stroll in the park for the visitors Chippa in the second half, but they were comfortable, which is why Tinkler was so worried.
SuperSport failed to score when they hosted ZESCO a week ago, with the coach choosing to look at the positives, which was that the PSL side had managed not to concede and were well poised to grab a crucial away goal in Ndola on Saturday.
But their opponents will argue that it is they who have the advantage - playing in front of their home crowd at a venue where they did not lose any of their matches in the group stages to finish as log leaders. The fact that there has to be a score result, though, works in SuperSport’s favour.