In the 2013/14 Premier Soccer League (PSL) season, Kaizer Chiefs surrendered an 11-point lead at the top of the log, and ended up in second place. This time around they made sure that they stuck to their nickname and became the amakhosi of the 2014/15 season. MICHAELSON GUMEDE looks at how Chiefs dominated the PSL from start to finish.
1. A flying start
In the first 15 games, Chiefs got off to a fantastic start, sweeping past their opponents to end the first half of the season on 36 points. The most remarkable thing about the Naturena-based side is that they occupied the number one spot from the first blow of the whistle up until the last day.
2. Strong backbone
A team needs to have a strong spin, which consists of a strong goalkeeper; strong, hard tackling centre-backs, a no-nonsense central defensive midfielder, and net-rattling goal attackers. Amakosi’s ever-present spin line – including the “Twin Towers”, Willard Katsande and Reneilwe Letsholonyane, made sure to avoid getting booked for silly challenges to avoid suspension; that takes discipline. In the absence of Chiefs’ number one sticks-man Itumeleng Khune, the talent of Brilliant Khuzwayo and Reyaad Pieterse stepped up. You couldsay we saw a “Rey-of-Brilliance”. How many teams can call on their second- and third-choice goalies and still have the same confidence as when their first choice is between the posts? Goalkeeper trainer, Rainer Dinkelacker surely deserves a round of applause.
It is crucial for a team to maintain the same starting 11 if they keep on producing results; equally, squad rotation helps in terms of diversity and tactical alternations. The regular backline of Amakhosi share a remarkable 115 games among them. The most noteworthy fact is that the 115 games were spread among four defenders, namely, Captain Tefu Mashamaite, who has played all 30 games along with with Siboniso Gaxa; Tsepo Masilela and Eric Mathoho played 28 and 27 games respectively. This consistency in defence made it much easier for the goalkeepers to excel. It is often said that strikers win you games, but defenders win you trophies; Chiefs have proven this again this season The steely defence let in only 14 goals the entire season.
4. Outstanding leadership
In the absence of regular captain Itumeleng Khune, coach Stuart Baxter and his technical team appointed Tefu Mashamaite as the captain ahead of the club’s regular stand-in captain, Siphiwe Tshabalala. Some supporters may have felt that Tshabalala was overlooked. But this was more a question of the team having many players who possess supreme leadership qualities. The likes of Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Bernard Parker, Tsepo Masilela and Siphiwe Tshabalala all played a part in leading the team, along with senior bench royalties Josta Dlala and Morgan Gould. At the end of the day, only one man could put on the armband on match day, but the collective leadership qualities of the senior players played an immense role in the team’s success.
5. Tactical brilliance
More often than not we’ve seen the team walking away with three points earned on a score with a margin of one goal. Every time Chiefs scored first, they went on to win the match. Out of their 21 wins, 10 were 1-0 victories, which indicates that Chiefs could defend their lead. If they appeared to be slim upfront, Baxter would usually introduce a fifth defender to make sure that if they didn’t score, they also didn’t concede.
Michaelson Gumede is the Daily Vox’s sports columnist. Do you agree with his take on Chief’s dominance this season? Let us know.