Q&A with SuperSport United coach Kaitano Tembo

With just over a week to the start of the new Absa Premiership season, Supersport.com talks to SuperSport United coach Kaitano Tembo about the coming campaign, as well as his pre-season preparations.

How has your pre-season gone? Have you been happy?

"Yes, very much so. We started on 18 June and we’ve had two camps now, first in Polokwane from 1-7 July and now this one in Cape Town up until Tuesday, when we go back home. I’m really satisfied with the amount of work which we’ve been putting in. We focused on the tactical, as well as the physical part. I think the boys are in good shape. We’ve avoided any major injuries and we hope that we’ll continue through the season injury-free.”

That was the problem for you most of last season. Injuries hit you at crucial times …

"Exactly, last season we started well but then all of a sudden we had about four of our top and most influential players out because of injuries. Our rhythm was compromised, we had to start again and find new combinations and that’s when we started introducing new young players to get game time. I think it will be a little bit different this season. I think we’ll have a good start this time around, looking at the fitness level of the boys."

And how has the integration of your new players gone?

"We’ve only got (Thamsanqa) Gabuza and (Kuda) Mahachi at the moment, but it’s gone well. That’s why we are trying to play as many friendlies as we can, so that we can polish the combinations and trying to make sure they understand the way we do things and try and bring them up to speed. We are playing again at the weekend."

When are your players who were at the Africa Cup of Nations due to return?

"Evans Rusike is already back with us and Dean Furman and Ronwen Williams will be back with us this week. We had to give them time off to spend with their families after the tournament. There will be enough time for them to get ready for the start of the new season because it’s not like they were off on holiday. They had been in camp for 41 days with Bafana and they needed time to just go and relax. I know they are professionals, I trust them. They will look after their fitness level."

Tebeho Mokoena is back with you after his trial overseas, but what lies ahead for him now?

"I’m happy that the boy is really focused. He has been tremendous, especially since we started pre-season regardless of all the talk about a possible transfer, all the media speculation. He has been a model professional and I’m really happy with him and I know he’s going to have a really good season because he’s had a really good pre-season as well."

Do you feel you have a good blend of youth and experience, with quite a few young guys coming through?

"That’s what we are trying to do, we always have to try and promote youth. We do not have the budget to go out and spend a lot of money on players. We have to also look at the youth. Some of our youngsters like Ghampani Lungu, Jamie Webber, Luke Fleurs played a part last season as we introduced them gradually but this season they will play a huge role. They are now getting used to the PSL, the condition and the intensity of the game at this level. We are already looking ahead to next season and those youngsters that are coming up, how we can help them to grow. We have the luxury of integrating them at our own pace."

What are your chances of winning the league this season because you didn’t do too badly last season despite the setbacks?

"If we look back on last season, up until the last four games we were mathematically in the race. I think we always want to go out and compete and make sure we fight. We are also in the mix of the teams who want to win the league. It is key for us to make a good start although we have four tough games to begin with. Those games will map out the rest of our season."

You have finished now your rookie season as coach. You must be feeling a lot more confident now about your role?

"I’m a person who always wants to work under pressure. This season we need to try and do well. It’s the nature of our jobs. It’s how you deal with it."