JOHANNESBURG – In the 16-team tier of the Absa Premiership, AmaZulu coach Cavin Johnson is adamant that anything less than a championship medal is not to be celebrated.
After being docked six points earlier this season for failing to comply with a Fifa ruling, naysayers had expected Johnson and his troops to fall down the pecking order, and possibly languish in the drop zone.
Instead, Usuthu have taken the set-back on the chin and fought their way up the log standings. Currently, they are placed 11th and five points adrift of Polokwane City, who occupy the eighth spot – a place many average teams deem a target for the season, as it consists of the eight teams that battle it out for R8million in just four matches in the MTN8 competition.
However, Johnson is not fazed by that. The former SuperSport United manager says he’d rather go big or go home, instead of celebrating that opportunity, or a seasonal incentive based on where they’ve finished on the log, or the second and third spot that guarantees continental football.
“If I can’t make top one, then the rest of the 15 spots are all the same,” he said after their 4-1 league loss to Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night.
“If I can’t come number one, then what’s the use of making the top-eight? If that was worth R10m, then I’d make it every week. But I think finishing eighth is worth R500 000.”
Johnson admits he’s a fan of continental football, which is secured by a top three finish in the league and by winning South Africa’s premier knockout competition – the Nedbank Cup. But, at the same time, he understands he can’t go to the competition to add numbers – he’s got to be equipped.
“I love playing in Africa. And I’d like to always compete in Africa, because we are not as strong as we think we are,” said Johnson, who led defunct Platinum Stars to African football after finishing second on the log six seasons ago.
Usuthu might not win the league, but they are heading in the right direction in terms of a higher finisher – something that won’t give Johnson sleepless nights either.
This is their second season in top-flight football after buying the status of defunct Thando Royal Zulu.
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Usuthu have grown in strength in the past two seasons, and play an attractive brand of football. Unlike most of the teams that know they won’t compete with the so-called “big five” in terms of personnel, Usuthu have challenged every team with which they’ve crossed paths.
Kudos for that bravery – they’ve recently caused some major upsets, such as beating champions Mamelodi Sundowns in their own backyard.
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