Every time you think Eric Tinkler’s side might finally be brought back down to earth, that this will be the game where their Absa Premiership credentials are examined, they defy the odds.
A case in point was Friday night’s 3-2 victory at Bidvest Wits. Wits are among many observers’ title favourites, with Gavin Hunt tipped to build on the past couple of seasons’ near-misses and go all the way this time. But it was Hunt who was left shaking his head at the end of this one, wondering how another one had got away.
It was City who were celebrating, Lebogang Manyama’s smash-and-grab sending them, at that point, four points clear at the top. By the time the weekend was over the gap was three points between City and their opponents on Saturday in the Telkom Knockout final, SuperSport United.
Yes, City have not just been impressive in the league, they have excelled in cup competitions too. Kaizer Chiefs were dumped out of the MTN8, and progress to the TKO final has been sealed on the back of an impressive 10 goals in three matches. A side only formed just ahead of the new season has lost just three of 18 matches, a quite remarkable statistic.
Tinkler has been at the heart of it all, the City coach making Orlando Pirates fans regret the club’s decision to let him go at the end of last season. The former Bafana Bafana midfielder may not have won a trophy in his time at the Buccaneers, but he did reach the final of the 2015 Caf Confederation Cup and the 2016 Nedbank Cup, and seemed to have the respect of the Buccaneers squad too.
The same cannot be said of Muhsin Ertugral, who replaced Tinkler but was gone by November following a 6-1 hammering from SuperSport. It is not unreasonable to think that Pirates chairman Dr Irvin Khoza may be looking at Tinkler’s success at City with a sense of regret.
Tinkler has no doubt been helped by the fact that City chairman John Comitis was able to retain a decent portion of the MP Black Aces players from last season when he purchased the top- flight franchise. But the City head coach has still done superbly to combine talents like Shuaib Walters, Aubrey Ngoma and Lebo Manyama with new faces like Roland Putsche and Matthew Sim to form a cohesive unit, a side that just seems to have a great spirit and will-to-win.
Saturday’s cup final should be a fascinating encounter – Stuart Baxter’s SuperSport have to be favourites after winning the Nedbank Cup in May, and are currently on a 14-match unbeaten run. But City are making a habit of upsetting the odds.
We speak to Ngoma and Manyama in this week’s Phakaaathi, while we also get the views of Pitso Mosimane, with Sundowns jetting off yesterday for the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan. The Brazilians have really just done well by reaching the tournament, courtesy of their Caf Champions League success, but there is no reason, in my mind, that they can’t reach the semifinals in Osaka on Sunday.
The famous “CBD” were back in harness against Free State Stars on Saturday and they could hold the key to Sundowns’ chances in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Finally, don’t forget to enter our Phakaaathi Player-of- the-Month competition on Page 8 – there are four fantastic players in the running and you could grab yourself R350 in airtime.