JOHANNESBURG - SuperSport United coach Eric Tinkler credits the team’s unity for their impressive form on the road, with just one away defeat in the Caf Confederation Cup despite playing in some hostile environments after taxing trips.
Matsatsantsa a Pitori’s only loss away from home in this tournament was against Sudanese side Al-Ahly Shendi in the first round. The Tshwane side was unfazed by spending two hours on the air unable to land in Liberia. They also handed Club Africain their first defeat in Tunisia in the semifinal. SuperSport will look to continue with that good away run on Sunday in their clash with TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi in the first leg of the final.
“The team unity has been exceptional,” Tinkler said. “These mini camps that we’ve been doing have always been exceptional because these guys get to spend many hours together - especially on those long trips via Dubai. You sit there for a day and travel the next morning and you travel for another six hours to wherever.
"These guys have been spending a lot of time together, yet I have never seen arguments and they have never had fights with each other which you would expect. Sooner or later someone will get in your face and your space. But these guys seem to enjoy each other’s company. I think that’s very important, even the camp that we had was exceptional.
"The effort and the intensity in training has been good. The support they give to each other when someone isn’t doing well is amazing. That’s what has taken this team this far. I remember in the (MTN8) final, playing with 10 men, the guys kept on believing and fighting for each other.”
SuperSport’s preparations for this match has been less than ideal, with six key players involved in World Cup qualifiers. The South African contingent of Dean Furman, Morgan Gould, Bradley Grobler, Ronwen Williams and Clayton Daniels arrive on Thursday afternoon from Dakar. Kiwi star Jeremy Brockie will land from Brazil on Friday morning. He will then join his teammates on their flight to Lubumbashi at 9.20am. The players will shrug off that hectic schedule due to their desire to make history and give SuperSport their first continental title.
“It would be massive,” Tinkler said. “It would put SuperSport’s name on the African continent which I don’t think is there now. People will start to take the team more serious. I don’t think that TP Mazembe took this team seriously when they played them at home in the group stage because they didn’t have a clue who SuperSport was. But I promise you now they know who SuperSport United are.
"When you lift that title you become a known brand in the continent. That’s what I want this club to be, it must be a club known on the continent. On a personal level, it’s something I would love to have on my CV. It’s always been my objective as a coach to not only win things locally in South Africa but I want to win things on the African continent and further than that.
"That’s my ambition. That’s what I will strive to achieve. I have been to two finals. This is my third. Even if I fail on the third time, I will be there for the fourth, fifth and sixth time. That’s how ambitious I am as a person. I will keep thriving to win more and be better.”