EXPERIENCED Zimbabwean coach Joey “Mafero” Antipas is on the verge of achieving success with South African National First Division side AmaZulu, with the former Motor Action and Chicken Inn gaffer eyeing ABSA Premiership promotion with Usuthu.
Antipas, who joined AmaZulu last year after leading Chicken Inn to their maiden domestic Premiership title and a place in the Champions League, has been using his experience to guide the Durban outfit closer to a return to the South African top-flight.
Second-placed AmaZulu might be nine points behind leaders Thanda Zulu Royal and an automatic place into the Premiership, but their position will guarantee them a second bite of the cherry via the promotional play-offs.
It is success in the play-offs which Antipas has set his sights on.
Usuthu beat Cape Town All Stars 3-1 this past weekend to make it four victories on the trot, leaving them nine points adrift of runaway leaders Thanda Royal Zulu.
Antipas’ side will on Saturday visit playoffs rivals Black Leopards, who are a point behind them but with a game in hand.
The former Warriors coach has been in the business for some time and knows the need to approach the run in to the season with the right attitude and focus.
“There’s no need to be carried away, we just got to take each game as it comes and go with the right focus and right attitude,” Antipas told KickOff.
“We just got to keep our feet on the ground and stay humble and just keep on working hard, and if we do that then we can do it (reach the playoffs)’’.
He has former Warriors stars — veteran goalkeeper Energy Murambadoro and midfielder Ovidy Karuru — in his team.
“But going forward now, one thing I can say is the team spirit is tremendous and we just are going to keep up that fighting spirit.
“Having said that, I’m extremely happy and I’d say it was good fight back in the second half. But in the first half we were slow on the ball and we gave Cape Town All Stars a lot of the ball, room and space.
“But in the second half we improved and our pressing was good, especially in the second half with the good introductions of (Mabhuti) Khenyeza and Sbu Magaqa (who), lifted the game and I’m very happy.”
Antipas also said his team would fight hard for a play-offs spot in memory of their kit manager Jonathan “Big John” Ndlangisa, who was shot in Berea/Glenwood on April 8 and passed away in hospital 10 days later.
The 47-year-old, who also worked at Golden Arrows, received a memorial service at Moses Mabhida Stadium last Friday and his funeral took place on Sunday in his hometown Mhlabashane Place, KwaMzamo, Highflats on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.
“From his death, we decided to fight for him because we are happy men if AmaZulu do go up. So we’ll fight tooth and nail each and every game,” Antipas said.
Antipas is also aware that it will not be an easy road in their five remaining matches as AmaZulu with 41 points, also have Black Leopards and Stellenbosch (both 40 points) breathing heavily just behind them, while fifth-placed Royal Eagles and Witbank Spurs, who are sixth have 37 points apiece