Siyavutha boss’ corporate approach works
When the National First Division (NFD) resumes this week, the spotlight will be on Witbank Spurs, who are hard to ignore at second on the log.
They are four points adrift of leaders Baroka FC, a side Spurs handed their first loss of the season to in October.
The Mpumalanga-based outfit has enjoyed their best campaign in years, especially after finishing just above the relegation zone last season.
It was inevitable that the club’s change of fortunes would be credited to co-owner and coach Themba Mafu – who, like Jomo Sono – ranks among few owner-coaches in the country.
“It started with me paying more attention to Spurs because I was previously focusing on my other businesses,” said the 51-year-old Mafu.
Like Jomo Cosmos counterpart Sono, businessman and family man Mafu wears many hats. He is his club’s chairperson and coach.
“I have surrounded myself with capable people in certain areas; it’s not a one-man show in my business empire. I can’t be human resources manager, finance manager or operations manager to get the business going,” said Mafu, who is assisted at the club by Eugene Soppo, who doubles as the goalkeeper trainer.
The results are there for everyone to see since he assumed the reins from a technical bench of co-coaches midway into last year’s campaign.
“Siyavutha”, as Spurs are known to their followers, have recorded seven wins in 12 matches with two draws and three loses so far this season.
The feat includes a six-match unbeaten run between August and October. The team recorded only seven wins in the whole of last season, when they escaped relegation by nine points.
“At the beginning of the season, we took a corporate approach. Players went through an induction process and workshops before they kicked a ball.
“Everyone knows our objectives. We consistently review and rate our performance after matches.”
He added: “We also looked at the recruitment policy and our succession plan. We reinforced key departments – goalkeeping, defence and the strike force.”
Some of the club’s experienced players include former Kaizer Chiefs defender Thabang Rooi and striker Joshua Sauls, signed from relegated GaRankuwa United.
Striker and leading scorer Cleopas Dube has settled well in his second season with the club.
Mafu said he wanted Spurs to be as competitive as possible to replicate its tradition of having produced, among others, Rooi Mahamutsa (Orlando Pirates), Innocent Mdledle (ex-Pirates) and Frank Makua (former Chiefs).
“In the NFD, whether you like it or not, we play for promotion, unlike in the premier division, where some clubs just want to maintain their [Premiership] status.”
Spurs will resume their league campaign against Milano in Cape Town on Saturday. Siyavutha will also face Santos in the NFD Nedbank Cup qualification round at the Puma Rugby Stadium on Tuesday.
Mafu underlined the importance of progressing to the proper draw of the lucrative competition, despite Spurs also eyeing promotion.
“The Nedbank Cup is an opportunity we hardly have in the NFD. It’s good for the brand because clubs get exposure, especially as most of the matches are televised.”
MR GOALS Cleopas Dube
has been banging them in for Witbank
BIG BOSS Themba Mafu calls the shots at his club