The battle of the coaches

2016-07-23 16:27

Three completely new faces in the Absa Premiership coaching circle: two familiar faces but with different clubs, and one returnee.

This is what the Absa Premiership will look like when the new season starts in the middle of next month.

But all eyes will be on Frenchman Denis Lavagne and Luc Eymael of Belgium, who will be making their debut in the PSL.

Pitso Mosimane is the man to beat as all of the other 15 coaches will be aiming to wrestle the title away from him.

If last season is anything to go by, Mosimane still looks poised to conquer the league after retaining most of his playing personnel.

The Frenchman and Belgian do not bring a pedigree of accolades to Free State Stars and Polokwane City, respectively, as their CVs are not that elaborate, and they will find acclimatising to the differences in play, tactics, media relations and club politics challenging.

This is what makes their arrival in the league truly exciting: unpredictability of adjusting to the PSL mixed with an unfamiliar style of football.

With the uncertainty around Stars, Lavagne must be asking himself what he got himself into as his preseason is hampered by the latest development regarding the future of the club.

Stars were this week confirmed as the new Moroka Swallows after being bought by a Panyaza Lesufi-led consortium.

The move would have caused a lot of uncertainty among the players as they were not brought into the loop throughout the negotiations and would not have known whether they were coming or going or if they would relocate to a new home or not.

And the coach himself is uncertain of his future as he will now report to new owners. This is not the kind of welcome he would have hoped for in a new environment.

Lavagne inherited a coachless club after the departure of Italian Giovanni Solinas, who left at the end of the season after only joining in January.

Although he has worked on the continent, notably as the coach of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon and Tunisian side Étoile Sportive du Sahel, the PSL is a different kettle of fish. He will have to hit the ground running and find his footing along the way.

Fortunately, the league will start towards the end of next month, and this buys him time to acclimatise.

Meanwhile, Eymael has taken over at Polokwane City.

He replaced Brazilian coach Júlio Leal, who finished in the 13th spot last season after replacing Kosta Papic in December. But the Brazilian was deemed not good enough and was given a one-way ticket back to his country.

Eymael also brings with him his extensive experience on the African continent having coached at AS Vita, AFC Leopards, Rayon Sports and Al-Merrikh, among other clubs.

Baroka FC coach Kgoloko Thobejane has already sent a warning to his rivals that the Limpopo side will continue with the giant-killing spree they are known for. But it will not be as easy as the overconfident Thobejane thinks.

He might have beaten Premiership sides while still in the National First Division (NFD), but playing them week in and week out will be different.

Baroka have already bolstered their squad but, with players mostly from other NFD clubs and their lack of Premiership experience, this could be their undoing.

Thobejane is confident of succeeding, but he needs to tread carefully. The Premiership is completely different from the NFD.

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February 18 2018