When a plan comes together

When a plan comes together

Steve Komphela’s philosophy is starting to take shape, as the Glamour Boys regain their shine.
By Wade Pretorius

What a difference a few weeks can make. In sport – just as in life – grabbing your chance and turning it into something positive can be the difference between being labelled a ‘hero’ or, less flatteringly, a ‘zero’.

After seven rounds of Premiership action, Kaizer Chiefs were flying high and sitting at the top of the table, following a disjointed campaign that had Mamelodi Sundowns playing catch-up after their title-winning run in the CAF Champions League.

Six weeks on, coach Steve Komphela’s head was on the chopping block again after Kaizer Chiefs’ dismal run of form, which saw them earn just a solitary point from a possible 18 and slip down to fourth behind Bidvest Wits, Cape Town City and SuperSport United. They needed a plan, a solution to their growing goal drought, but what few realised was that, in Komphela, they had a coach capable of riding out the biggest of storms, his plan already firmly in place.

Komphela was fortunate to have the trust of his senior players (not the case in England, where Claudio Ranieri, formerly of Leicester City, lost his job after losing the dressing room). Buying into Komphela’s strategy was always going to have make- or-break consequences. And that’s exactly how it unfolded over the next five matches, as Chiefs made 15 points from a possible 15 to surge back to the top of the table and into contention for the title.

‘I follow the philosophy of the coach,’ says Ramahlwe Mphahlele, just one of the key contributors to his side’s turnaround. ‘I do what he wants me to do. If he wants me to go up and down [the flank], I’ll do it.’ The former Sundowns skipper is quickly getting on board with his coach’s demands for a right back who commits fully on both defence and attack.

‘In terms of me going up and down [the flank], that’s how we play. If the coach wants us to, we’ve got to do it. It’s all about running with a lot of energy – what else can we do? We have to do what we have to do.’

George Maluleka is another player who has bought into what Komphela is trying to achieve over at Naturena. ‘Not much has changed,’ Maluleka says of the recent upturn in results. ‘It’s just that our mindset has taken a different direction. It is now more positive. We also have a clearer understanding of what we want to achieve.’

With Kaizer Chiefs now very much part of the pack aiming to dethrone Mamelodi Sundowns, the coach is sticking to his guns. He’s looking to focus on what his team is doing right, instead of hoping the Brazilians slip up as they make their way through a congested fixture list.

‘In as much as they have their challenges, rather concentrate on your strengths and, if you can strengthen where you are strong, then we will move. But, if you concentrate on their weaknesses, it takes you down in terms of your own strength because now you are looking at them instead of looking at yourself,’ says Komphela.

Of course, the desire to win is as strong inside the Chiefs camp itself as it is in the stadiums around the country packed with their adoring fans, so it’s forgivable when a player breaks ranks and reveals that he does look at how their rivals are dealing with their issues.

‘I think it will [help us],’ adds Maluleka. ‘I think we’ve been in that situation before, and that was the year we lost the title to Sundowns with 11 or so games to go. We dropped points, we were drawing and we became very desperate, and that cost us in a couple of crucial games. So we do not know how [the other three title hopefuls] are going to be dealing with such [a fixture list], but I think it will take its course.’

The revival in the Chiefs’ fortunes coincided with the team’s signing of midfield playmaker Joseph Molangoane. Despite not yet being accustomed to winning trophies in the famous black-and-gold strip, Molangoane certainly exudes the self-awareness and hunger that every Chiefs player must possess in spades if the club is to continue its march to glory.

‘I think we have the depth to win the league. Even if it is a marathon that we have to run by treating every game as it comes. I still think we have the depth to win the league,’ says Molangoane.

And part of the drive towards the title will involve the whole team – star players Mphahlele and Maluleka, rising talent such as Molangoane, and everyone in between – pulling together to deliver the silverware the Amakhosi faithful crave.

Photography: Gallo/Getty Images

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