JOHANNESBURG - Thuso Phala, the two-goal hero for SuperSport United in their CAF Confederation Cup quarter-final triumph away to Zambia’s ZEZCO United at the weekend, was a little cautious to committing to the statement - but Matsatsantsa may finally be living up to expectation.
Now that they are just two fixtures, the home and away leg against Club Africain of Tunisia, from reaching the final of the continental competition and already have a date with Cape Town City in the final of the MTN8 on October 14, the general feeling is that Phala and his teammates are on the cusps of several milestones.
“You could say that,” said the scorer of two well-taken goals at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium, where Matsatsantsa held the hosts to a 2-2 draw and progressed to the semi-finals of the Confederation Cup through the away goals rule.
“Last season we finished the season by winning a cup (the Nedbank Cup) and we are on our way to another one in the domestic league. We could potentially be involved in four finals in a row (counting the Telkom Knockout in December last year) in less than 12 months.
"That on its own is motivation for the players. It might be a cliché, but the mood in the camp is really quite high and positive.”
SuperSport are also feeding off coach Eric Tinkler’s energy.
The 1996 Africa Cup of Nations winner with Bafana Bafana missed out on what he said at the time would have been his crowning moment as a coach when Orlando Pirates lost to Etoile du Sahel in the final of the Confederation Cup two years ago while he was in charge.
“Maybe we are riding on his luck,” Phala said. “But it is important to remember that the club also worked very hard to keep the players that were there last season.
"I can’t point my finger at what exactly it was that was holding us back in terms of reaching our potential, but it looks like we are finally getting there this time around. The coach knows what its like to be at this stage of the competition and his experience will help.”
Tinkler was puzzled that his men were held to a 1-1 draw at home against Chippa United in a Premier League match a few days before making the trip to Ndola. But would have obviously been proud to see them put up a brave fight until Phala scored with what was virtually the last kick of the ball to ensure passage to the next round after SuperSport had conceded quite early in either half against ZESCO, who hadn’t lost or conceded in their own backyard throughout this year’s tournament.
“I think we had one eye on the CAF game,” said Phala in reflecting back to that deflating draw against Chippa. “Because of that, I think we can be happy that we didn’t drop maximum points and are still with the chasing pack in the league. This week is much better.
"The PSL has come on board because we don’t have a midweek game to distract us. We play Club Africain at home first, so it is important not to concede.”
That approach hurt Mamelodi Sundowns in the Champions League at the weekend as they bowed out in Rabat, leaving SuperSport to be the only SA representatives in the continental tournaments, but Phala and his teammates are buzzing so much they will stick to what they know come Saturday.