It hasn’t been an easy start for Kaya Malotana’s journey as FNB TUT coach, but the he’s certainly learning some vital skills during the 2020 FNB Varsity Shield tournament.
The Vikings got their campaign underway with a tight victory over FNB Rhodes (7-6), but have since suffered chastening back-to-back defeats against FNB CPUT and FNB WSU which leaves them in 6th place on the log (13 points behind leaders FNB WSU). This is a far cry from challenging for the title and promotion back to the FNB Varsity Cup – the target the Malotana and his squad set themselves before the season.
Ahead of their televised game against FNB UFH (Friday, 19:00, SuperSport 5), Malotana explained to varsitycup.co.za the challenges he and his technical staff – including assistant coach Lungelo Payi and team manager Bongani Mtshali – are learning to work around at the Vikings.
“Working with the small squad is very challenging because you must consistently work out the strongest combinations with limited man power,” said Malotana.
As a result, Malotana has relied on versatile players who have an ability to deliver whenever given a chance. Laro Delport is perhaps the most extreme example as the 19-year-old Supply Chain Management student has featured as a blindside flanker, No. 8 and hooker so far this campaign. Then all of Handro Horn (flank and lock), Anré O’Neill (flank and lock), Lusanda Xakwana (fullback and flyhalf), Wandile Shabalala (wing and fullback), Mfundo Gumede (fullback and wing), Musawenkosi Sili (centre and wing) and Nhlalala Sithole (wing and centre) have started matches in different positions.
“We have a few utility players who are key to forced combination changes as a result of injuries,” added their 44-year-old mentor.
Further evidence of how Malotana has had to chop and change his team, in just three matches so far, is that only giant tighthead prop Jakobus ‘Kowie’ Roos, openside flank Rhudi Pretorius, scrumhalf Michael Jacobs and outside centre Nathan Nienaber have been ever-present in their designated position so far - despite him only having used 28 players across the three matchday squads.
This all, and the work he has had to do with his own team, is perhaps why Malotana hasn’t had much time to put on his ‘commentator’s hat’ and suss out who is standing out across the competition to date.
“If you make it to this level, then it means you know your story. However, I haven’t seen that one special player but that’s because I have been more focused on the Vikings development,” concluded Malotana.
Considering their slow start to the season, the FNB TUT coach knows that their clash against UFH on Friday will be no walk in the park. Even more so because The Blues are currently in fourth place, but only by virtue of picking up more bonus because they have the same won 1, lost 2 record as TUT. Counting in the Vikings’ favour on at TUT Stadium is the fact that only once in 11 games between these two has the away team come away with a win – UFH back in 2013. As such, an intriguing clash awaits.