Tinkler is worth his weight in gold

Eric Tinkler (Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix)

Eric Tinkler (Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix)

On a weekend where the Soweto derby again failed to live up to expectations, it was left to SuperSport United to provide inspiration for South Africa’s football fans.

Eric Tinkler’s side did fantastically well to reach the Caf Confederation Cup final, putting on a stunning display in Tunisia to beat Club African and set up a third and fourth meeting in this year’s competition with DR Congo giants TP Mazembe.

To put this victory into some kind of context, Club Africain had not lost a continental game on home turf for eight years, as Matsatsantsa came to town with only a 1-1 draw to show for their efforts from the first leg in Tshwane. But Tinkler’s men were well worth their 3-1 victory at the Stade Olympique de Rades, in fact it could easily have been by a bigger margin.

After Mamelodi Sundowns’ win in the Caf Champions League last season, this is turning into a golden couple of years for South African sides in the continental game, and particularly those from the capital city.

SuperSport have travelled a long and arduous journey to make it this far, and have done so, amazingly, under three different coaches, in Stuart Baxter, Kaitano Tembo and Tinkler. It is Tinkler who has completed the job of reaching the final in some style, and has again proved himself an astute tactician.

Every victory must cause a slight twinge to the heart of Orlando Pirates chairman Irvin Khoza, who let Tinkler go despite the fact that he led the team to the 2015 Caf Confederation Cup final and the 2016 Nedbank Cup final.

If Tinkler was always the bridesmaid at Pirates, he has remedied that since, winning the Telkom Knockout with Cape Town City and already capturing the MTN8 this season, the first trophy available to him at SuperSport.

No doubt Tinkler will be determined to go one better now with Matsatsantsa than he did with the Buccaneers in 2015, when they lost out in the Confederation Cup final to Tunisia’s Etoile du Sahel.

It could help SuperSport that they will be at home for the second leg of the final against Mazembe, though it is difficult to read too much into this, especially as it is actually SuperSport’s away form that has been far more impressive in this year’s competition. There should certainly be little to separate the two sides, who played out two draws in the group stages.

Mazembe do have more continental pedigree, but much like Sundowns in the Champions League last year, the feeling is that SuperSport’s name might just be on this year’s trophy, and the spirit within the squad has to be at an all-time high following the MTN8 success and now this incredible triumph in Rades.

It is amazing to contrast SuperSport’s success with the current decline of Sundowns, who are falling apart at the seams since their loss to Wydad Casablanca in the African Champions League quarterfinals. There is no way that the Sundowns of the previous couple of seasons would have capitulated at home to AmaZulu as they did in the last 10 minutes at the Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday evening.

All the football played over the past couple of years would finally seem to have knocked some tired legs to the canvas, and it remains to be seen if they can get back up.

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