Absa Premiership

Tembo's veterans stand in Amakhosi's path to victory

Kaitano Tembo (Gallo Images)
Kaitano Tembo (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - SuperSport United coach Kaitano Tembo played into his late 30s before hanging up his boots in 2006.

It is because of this experience that the 48-year-old knows the importance of not just having veterans in his team, but how to utilise them.

A case in point is how Tembo has used midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane (36) and defender Morgan Gould (35) sparingly in Matsatsantsa a Pitori's run so far this season.

In SuperSport's four matches in all competitions, the pair made the first 11 in two matches and they started on the bench in the other fixtures.

READ: CT City take crucial MTN8 1st leg lead over Sundowns

Letsholonyane played 120 minutes when they squeezed Orlando Pirates out of the MTN8 a fortnight ago, and he came in as a late substitute to help his side to a 1-0 Absa Premiership win over Bidvest Wits last weekend. Gould was also introduced late in the game to consolidate the three points.

"We need to manage them properly so that we can get the best out of them," Tembo told City Press ahead of this afternoon's MTN8 semi-final first leg against Kaizer Chiefs in Atteridgeville, Tshwane.

It remains to be seen how Tembo will feature his veterans in Sunday's clash against another Soweto giant.

"We'll try to have a good mix so that it doesn't really disrupt our structure and our play. This is while bearing in mind that we are playing Chippa United on Wednesday and Chiefs again (the MTN8 semi-final, second leg at FNB Stadium) on Saturday."

Ironically, Letsholonyane and Gould are former Chiefs players.

"The older players have played a huge role in showing the youngsters the way," Tembo pointed out.

"Yeye (as Letsholonyane is known) and Morgan are very important players on our side. I've never really looked at their age because I’ve seen their desire and hunger at training. I think that's very key.

"But you've seen it with Yeye - in every game he plays, he looks like he's 20 years old. We know we're going to have a long season and I don't want him to be a 40- or 60-minute player because of fatigue."

While Tembo hailed the role his senior soldiers played in the team, he also highlighted the importance of the young brigade.

"We put emphasis on our academy. We need to give them that platform to realise their dreams as well," said the former Zimbabwean international defender, who retired at 36 and climbed up the coaching ranks through the SuperSport development structures.

"At some point, we'll need to rebuild our team. Some of the youngsters are already learning - the likes of Teboho Mokoena, Aubrey Modiba, Sipho Mbule, Kamo Mahlatsi and Luke Fleurs.

"Where else can they learn if they are not training with the first team that has the intensity of Yeye, Gould, Dean Furman, Thuso Phala, Clayton Daniels or Onismor Bhasera? These are the players to draw inspiration from."

While Chiefs are likely to focus on suffocating SuperSport's principal striker Evans Rusike, Tembo warned that goal-scoring responsibilities didn't only lie with his countryman.

"We don't want to put pressure on Evans as our source of goals. We want our midfielders to chip in."

Rusike has scored the team’s two league goals in three outings.

Meanwhile, Chiefs coach Giovanni Solinas told City Press that Amakhosi would follow a simple approach: "The first idea is to try to play well and create the chances, and if we do that, there are possibilities to win the game."

The Italian mentor will once again pin his hopes on the Khama Billiat-Leonardo Castro chemistry.

"I don't want to disrespect players at my club or the PSL. The combination of Billiat and Castro is beautiful in my opinion; it's the best," said Solinas.

He confirmed that Lebogang Manyama and Mario Booysen wouldn’t feature today because they were not match fit. They were signed this week and Solinas expects to get Ugandan Godfrey Walusimbi on board to help in the left-back slot.

So far, young defender Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya has made the left-back berth his this season.

"He's the future for Bafana Bafana," Solinas said.

Kick-off on Sunday is at 15:00.

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