Second-placed SuperSport United may be gradually losing touch with leaders Mamelodi Sundowns in the title race, but coach Kaitano Tembo isn’t too disconcerted, hinting that just being title-challengers shows they are punching above their weight, given that their squad is largely inexperienced.
SuperSport have played 18 games, two more than Downs, but are still on 33 points, three behind their leading Tshwane foes. Even so, Tembo is satisfied with their progress this season.
“I am not really worried about that [seeing Sundowns pulling away from them] because we’ve given opportunities to young players and we have lost players like [Aubrey] Modiba, [Dean] Furman, [Clayton] Daniels and [Thabo] Mnyamane,’’ said Tembo post Wednesday’s 1-all league draw at home to Orlando Pirates.
“We never really replaced those players with big-name players… we’ve gone out to bring players we feel we can build the team with going forward, but we’ve stayed competitive. For me, that’s what I look at and see the amount of work we’re putting in.’’
Matsatsantsa’s Achilles heel, amid their inconsistency this season, has been the propensity of starting games slowly. Tembo has chalked up their sluggish start mainly to tiredness, hoping the return from injuries of Teboho Mokoena and Guily Manziba will refresh the squad.
“It [the slow start] can be due to a lot of factors. If you look at our squad and the amount of games we’ve played… we’re playing back-to-back matches and we never really had time to rest some of the players. So, it is really taking its toll on the players,’’ noted Tembo.
“But the return of Manziba and Mokoena will give us that freshness, that’s all we need at the moment because we really don’t have time.”
SuperSport’s next fixture is a league tie away to AmaZulu on Tuesday. The SuperSport trainer is fazed that by the time they meet Usuthu, the Durban club would have had a 12-day rest, with their last game being a 2-1 win over Chiefs on February 17. Tembo foresees another slow start from his boys on Tuesday.
"We’re playing again on Tuesday against AmaZulu, who last played against Chiefs about 10 or 14 days ago. So we’re playing against fresh team. Probably that has been one of the reasons we’ve not been having good starts.''