The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
THERE has been a lot of debate as to whether new Highlanders coach Hendrik Pieter de Jongh should take full credit for the team’s resurgence.
Bosso are yet to taste defeat since de Jongh took charge at the end of last month. Highlanders started their turnaround the very week that the Dutchman arrived when they thrashed Bulawayo Chiefs 3-1 at Barbourfields Stadium. In his first official match in charge, Highlanders overcame their fierce rivals Dynamos 1-0 in a Chibuku Super Cup round of 16 fixture in Harare. Bosso followed that up with an outstanding display to thump Chicken Inn 2-0 in a league encounter. They collected a point in a 1-1 stalemate with Herentals and last Sunday they were patient enough to unlock a stubborn TelOne, with Highlanders scoring twice in the last 10 minutes to win 2-0.
Nathan Greenland, a Highlanders supporter is of the view that de Jongh has changed the way Highlanders play, with Bosso having additional swiftness and direction, which is the reason why they are scoring goals.
“Their counter attacks have got more pace, more direction, that’s why we are picking up more goals. Even this past game they could have scored four to five goals, that direct pace from the defence, the build-up is so quick now. You can see Bosso’s fitness levels, they are something else, those players are so fit,’’ said Greenland.
A former Shu-Shine, Acadia United and TK United player, Greenland feels that former Bosso coach Madinda Ndlovu managed to assemble a good team, with all that was missing being converting the chances they were creating.
“Madinda built a good team, it was just now that final third of scoring, the pace, so what this guy has done is the defence pushes up, they are now playing higher, almost by the centre circle and they are attacking, their attacks are very fast, when Skippy (MacClive Phiri) gets the ball he is looking for that cross, he is no more pushing it back, he goes down the line, he crosses.”
Another Bosso supporter, Donovan Ashborne believes the Dutchman has instilled a sense of belief in the players which was not there before his arrival.
“All I can say is it seems the boys have found new self belief, they now believe in themselves especially Adrian Silla, he is back and Nqobizitha Masuku and Prince Dube. The team is playing with more flair now. These boys didn’t believe in themselves I think, his training methods are working because there is now less running at training,’’ Ashborne said.
Charity “Chunky” Dube, a die-hard Bosso supporter thinks that de Jongh has transformed Highlanders because the team is showing more aggression. His belief is that the Dutchman is also fortunate seeing that the team played well under Madinda and Mandla Mpofu but struggled to score.
“A lot has changed, the team is now attacking, and even in the second half they come back a changed team, which means the coach has changed the boys’ mentality. Maybe the coach is also lucky, because the team was playing really well and not scoring, now they are scoring which means he is a lucky man,’’ Dube said.
With the way Highlanders are playing, Dube sees a six finish as something that they can accept as fans.
“Madinda’s team was also playing well but they were not scoring. Lulu’s team was also good but they were not scoring. De Jongh has come with goals, it’s the same team. We are looking at a top six finish at the end of the season.”
Another passionate Highlanders supporter, Duduzo “Teekay” Sibanda has seen a change in approach by de Jongh.
“What has changed is the approach, the players are now putting 100 percent because of the presence of the new coach. The players have changed their attitude, they know if they perform they will be selected. We are happy with what is happening, we appreciate all those who are contributing to the coach’s upkeep,’’ Sibanda said.
He is even dreaming of the championship next year if de Jongh remains in charge, with his only fear being losing some of the key players to foreign teams.
“We are hoping for a top eight or top six finish. We supported Lulu but he didn’t have the winning touch. Look at a player like Silla, he is playing at his best. Out of the remaining fixtures there is no intimidating game at all, our players are very fit. With this coach, we can win the championship next year,” Sibanda declared.
Highlanders face the strongest challenge to their renaissance when they face ZPC Kariba at Nyamhunga Stadium on Wednesday. Some of the challenging fixtures remaining for Highlanders are the away visits to Dynamos and FC Platinum.