SuperSport's Kaitano Tembo has won the hearts of SA football fans
JOHANNESBURG – SuperSport United’s chase for PSL glory may have endured set-backs in recent months, but with a number of interesting duels between the rest of the title contenders still coming up, there is no writing Matsantsantsa off just yet.
SuperSport are third on the league standings with 40 points, eight behind log leaders Kaizer Chiefs who have two games in hand. Sure, it will be a big ask for SuperSport to close in on Amakhosi, but they can only play their part - by winning their remaining six matches.
SuperSport’s fate may not be in their hands, but there is just so much to be proud of this season - considering they have already won a trophy.
Their season in a nutshell:
The Pretoria giants got their campaign off to a flying start after winning the most rewarding domestic Cup competition of the season, the MTN8. That triumph was supposed to boost their season especially with a squad that is a mix of youth and experience.
However, not all has gone according to plan - especially in the league. The team from South Africa’s capital has blown hot and cold, subsequently dropping unnecessary points along the way, something that has further hindered their progress.
There are a number of reasons for their disappointments, but inconsistency is top of the list. Striker Thamsanqa Gabuza started life at the club like a house on fire, but his form depreciated - forcing partner Bradley Grobler to solely carry the goal scoring responsibilities.
Nonetheless, with the third highest scoring rate and goal difference in the league, coach Kaitano Tembo can be proud of his players’ contribution - especially having come under the circumstances of having new members and young gems join the team.
A championship medal could very well be out of sight, but winning their second MTN8 crown after three successive final appearances deserves the plaudits. It is more reason why SuperSport are slowly re-branding themselves as Cup specialists.
Tembo’s rise to prominence has won the hearts of many in SA football this season. When SuperSport were crowned MTN8 champions in October, his players spoke with one voice: “We wanted to do it for the coach”.
Such is Tembo’s tactical acumen that it is also been relatively easy for academy graduates to fit in like a glove in his set-up. A season ago, Sipho Mbule was just “another squad member” but the 22-year has been a cog in the team’s engine room, together with Teboho Mokoena. The fruits of the Mokoena and Mbule’s labour has been enjoyed by Grobler who has scored 12 league goals, two behind the and league’s top goal scorer Gabadinho Mhango of Orlando Pirates.
What they have done right/strengths:
Togetherness. SuperSport have pulled in one direction this season. Sure, Grobler may lead the team’s goal scoring charts but any one of their players can score. SuperSport have also scored on both dead-ball situations and open play. Bafana Bafana’s No 1 Ronwen Williams has been superb between the sticks.
But such has been the astute leadership of chief executive Stan Matthews that he has rewarded a number of playing personnel and technical team staff who have served the club with distinction during their respective stints.
There has been a huge chunk of development graduates who have rose to the occasion in top-flight football this season. Such that the maturity of Jamie Webber, Mbule, Mokoena and Luke Fleurs has also been pivotal for the respective junior national teams.
What they have done wrong/weakness:
Inconsistency. Had it not been for dropping points in matches they should have easily won; SuperSport would still have their fate in their own hands. But they have been casual and negligent, so much so that their wins over fellow title rivals Wits, Pirates and Chiefs, could be worthless.
Tembo has bemoaned how certain individuals fails to string consistent performances week in, week out. This is something that has made SuperSport predictable at times, especially against teams in the bottom half of the league.
Grobler’s scoring spree - 15 goals in 27 appearances this season - has been the fuel that has driven the team this campaign. The 32-year striker, who has been troubled with injuries in the past, is enjoying his football again. For his exploits he returned to the Bafana set-up after receiving call-ups for the last four 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Remaining six games for SuperSport
Celtic, Polokwane City and Baroka.
Leopards, Pirates and Cape Town City.