Last season Kaizer Chiefs became one of the worst of the defending champions, after finishing fifth and 25 points behind eventual winners Mamelodi Sundowns.
However, they are within two points of bettering their last season’s record with six league games to go, and Steve Komphela deserves some credit for making the players believe in themselves again.
Although, Chiefs saw their 14-match unbeaten in all competitions come to end when they narrowly lost to SuperSport United on penalties in a Nedbank Cup clash over the weekend, they remain undefeated in their last 12 league matches.
Goal takes a look at some of the things Komphela is doing right at the Glamour Boys this season.
RETURN TO FORM OF KEY PLAYERS
Amakhosi’s top performers went missing far too often in key matches last season and at the beginning of the campaign; the players Komphela relied heavily upon to make his stay a success at the club hardly showed up.
Komphela and his technical team were probably hoping to build the team around the likes of Siphiwe Tshabalala, Bernard Parker, Hendrick Ekstein, George Lebese, William Twala, Siyanda Xulu and George Maluleka among others, but almost all of them were blowing hot and cold at the start of the season.
Players like Willard Katsande, Lorenzo Gordinho and Itumeleng Khune carried the team during difficult times, and this was evident in the results – Chiefs were either losing or drawing unnecessary matches, while they didn't score enough to win games.
Tables have turned and everyone appears to be on the same wavelength with the coach - even those who continue to sit on the bench such as Twala, Lebese and Ekstein contribute immensely every time they are given a run as substitutes.
They have realized that competition for places is high, and whoever is not performing doesn’t make Komphela’s matchday squads – Lewis Macha and Michelle Katsvairo can attest to that, and you cannot blame the coach, simply because he’s spoiled for choice.
SIGNING JOSEPH MOLANGOANE
The team wasn’t doing well when Joseph Molangoane arrived as a free agent in December last year, and Komphela seized the moment by throwing him into the deep end as soon as he became available.
Guess what? Chiefs have lost once in the league since the speedy winger made his debut for the club. Ironically, the loss came against his former club Chippa United last December.
His signing is already proving a major success, and Molangoane has no doubt given Amakhosi venom in the attacking third with his pace, ability to create opportunities for teammates and scoring important goals.
Very few still remember that Komphela is the one who handed Molangoane his PSL debut seven years ago at Platinum Stars, and by signing him from Chippa, he knew what he would offer to Chiefs on the wings.
He’s energetic, protects the ball well and he takes on defenders without looking on the bench after losing possession because that’s how the coach wants him to play – he’s fearless and he makes Chiefs tick.
For any player in the world to shine, it starts with someone believing in their talent, and Komphela is that someone to Molangoane at the Glamour Boys, and that’s why he hasn’t slowed down since joining making his debut.
DISCIPLINE AND UNITY
There are no longer passengers on the field of play, and everyone is giving 100 percent irrespective of the opponents Chiefs face. Komphela has done away with egos that some senior players had last season.
A section of fans believed that some players were ‘too big’ to be coached by Komphela in his first year at the club, but he’s managed to deal with that and everyone knows that no one is guaranteed a place in the team.
For instance, when Parker and Lebese were not on form, Komphela took a brave decision by relegating them to the bench. He didn’t succumb to pressure from the fans to play their favourite players – he put his foot down on a number of occasions even when results were not forthcoming.
His man-management skills are nothing short of a transformation. He’s the man in charge, and if he makes mistakes, he takes account and fixes them the next game.
When Chiefs went nine games without winning a match in the first round, Komphela never quit, but soldiered on because he believed in what he was doing. A different coach would have long quit, but he developed a thick skin, not only to protect himself when the team isn’t doing well, but also when his stars are underperforming.
He doesn’t blame his players for their mistakes in his post-match interviews – win or lose – he motivates them and always emphasize the importance of shouldering the blame as a collective.
There's more unity in the squad now, and the players are aware that they cannot achieve success without the help of their teammates.