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Stars going platinum fast

WINNING the league's Q-Innovation will not only earn Platinum Stars a cool R1,5m cheque, but also represents a huge achievement for the North West team.

Not since capturing the Telkom Knockout trophy six years ago have Dikwena come close to achieving anything. The recruitment of players such as Steve Lekoelea, Jabu Mahlangu (Pule), Dillon Sheppard and Mbulelo "OJ" Mabizela proved nothing but wasteful expenditure.

Even coaches such as Miguel Gamondi and Steve Komphela came and went, all the while a gem in the form of Cavin Johnson lay in the development structures.

But a combination of sound administration and a collective effort from the players is behind the team's relative success.

Johnson insists, however, that priority is to maintain their position in the top three and victory against Moroka Swallows on Wednesday remains crucial to that ambition.

His mission is backed by the team's astonishing run of eight victories in the past nine games, including wins over Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns.

"What's important is for the team to finish the year on a high and build on the good form for the remaining months," says Johnson.

"We've got a state-of-the-art facility, one of the best in the country and this season we've been making full use of it.

"We're able to train in the evening and that's also been key to consistent levels of fitness. There's a lot we can achieve here and everybody in the club is pulling in the same direction."

The influence of Floyd Mbele, the chairman of the team, has been significant in Stars' performance.

Through his football acumen and knowledge gained as a PSL and Safa administrator, Mbele has minimised expenditure and recruited wisely in the off-season.

Instead of spending more on glorified foreign coaches, Mbele elevated Johnson to the top position and retained Allan Freese and Willem Jackson as assistant coaches.

Benson Mhlongo looks rejuvenated.

"So far it's been good and I've played my best football," says Mhlongo, whose presence, along that of the likes of Vuyo Mere and Henrico Botes, has been quite immense.

"But football can give you joy one moment and sadness the next. What's important is how you finish the season."