Kaitano Tembo, coach of Supersport United. Photo: Muzi Ntombela

JOHANNESBURG – The retirement home that Kaitano Tembo inherited at SuperSport United when he took over from Stuart Baxter has been replaced by a Matsatsantsa a Pitori team that’s gone back to its foundation - trusting the young talent it nurtures.

The MTN8 finalist have a number of exciting, talented players who have dazzled whenever given an opportunity.

At 22, Teboho Mokoena is among the leaders in the first team. Sipho Mbule (21) is having a breakthrough season while Jamie Webber (21), Jesse Donn (20) and Ghampani Lungu (20) are finding their feet. They aren’t young in the truest sense of the word, but compared to the over-30s that Baxter relied on, Tembo has transformed the team by injecting young blood and backing it.

“I spent five years in the development at SuperSport,” Tembo said. “I started from the bottom. I coached the under-17. I coached the under-19s and the MDC (MultiChoice Diski Challenge). It is about getting the opportunities. I know what happens down there, how those players feel.

As a club we have lost players once they get to 17-18 because we aren’t really patient with them. I always want to give them that opportunity, an opportunity that I got. But at the same time, we need to be brave.”

SuperSport have one of the best development academies in the country. They abandoned their roots in pursuit of honours, which produced short-term results. That was exposed two seasons ago when they reached the final of the CAF Confederation Cup but they fell into the relegation quagmire when first team regulars were injured, with the young players not given an adequate chance before that.

“We also need to bring in the right players because it is also about getting results,” Tembo said. “So, you’ve got to bring in players with the right belief and mentality. Players who have hunger and desire to succeed because in this business it is about results, so you want players who will match that. We have that. And we still have Jesse Donn who is a youngster. They push each other. That’s why when Tebza (Mokoena) isn’t performing, there’s Jamie who comes in and does well.

They are always pushing each other, and you need to try and create that competition. They should know that when they do well, they will get an opportunity to play. But they have to make sure that they create those opportunities.”

Kaitano Tembo spent five years in the development at SuperSport, starting from the bottom with the Under-17s.Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Kaitano Tembo spent five years in the development at SuperSport, starting from the bottom with the Under-17s.Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Tembo’s young guns have an opportunity to fire the club to success in the MTN8 final against Highlands Park on October 5 at Orlando Stadium. But they have to first negotiate their way past two league games, starting this afternoon against Polokwane City at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium.

“They are our hoodoo team of some sort. There are too many draws in our history with them. They are tough to play against. You saw them against Highlands Park. They are on 10 points and they are second on the log, which shows what kind of a team they are. They have a very good work ethic.

It’s always going to be a difficult game, especially playing them in Polokwane.”

Bonginkosi Ndadane