When Ayanda Dlamini took over in March from Jozef Vukusic as caretaker coach, the AmaZulu ship was sinking, rooted at the bottom of the log standings with seven matches remaining.
But the former striker alongside with his outspoken assistant coach Moeneeb Josephs managed to steer the ‘Usuthu’ ship back to safety to finish the 2019-20 Absa Premiership season in a relatively comfortable 13th position.
Affectionately known as ‘Cobra’, Dlamini is all too familiar with the club as he spent much of his playing career at AmaZulu.
In seven matches he oversaw, Dlamini guided AmaZulu to two wins, four draws, and one defeat.
The 35-year-old had instant credibility regarding what was said in the changing room as a former successful hitman with 34 goals, 21 assists in 166 matches across all competitions in South Africa’s top-flight.
AmaZulu captain and central defender Tapelo Xoki once said the players were pleased when they heard that Dlamini was appointed caretaker coach.
Players are likely to listen and respect what former elite players say because they have been there and done it like Dlamini.
“So, when we were told that he will be working with coach Ayanda, we were very happy with the management’s decision.”
Xoki also described Josephs as “a good leader and motivator,” praising the veteran goalkeeper’s efforts and work at the club behind the scenes.
“Whenever he notices that one of his teammates is not having a good day either during matches or training sessions, he always looks to lift our spirits.”
In his first game at the helm before the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to the Premiership season, Dlamini led AmaZulu to an impressive 1-0 win over Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium in March.
What also worked in Dlamini’s favour is the actual knowledge of what it is like to be there in the pressure cooker for players as he communicated with an absolute authenticity about some experiences.
Modelling as well as showing players how to do things as a former athlete was critical.
Under former striker Dlamini, Lehlohonolo Majoro rediscovered his goal-scoring form to help AmaZulu avoid the axe. Majoro scored two goals and provided two assists as he formed a deadly partnership with the club’s leading goal scorer Bongi Ntuli in the PSL Bio Bubble.
“They play extremely well together‚ the partnership they are starting to build has proved beneficial for us. Both players are keen on helping each other‚ and the team‚ going forward‚” said Dlamini.
The Durban-based club took the decision to offer Dlamini the role of the head coach on a three-year contract, taking over Vukusic, who was suspended a few months ago and later let go as ‘Usuthu’ found themselves in the relegation zone for much of the season.
In a virtual press conference on Wednesday, Dlamini said, “I have been with AmaZulu for years and it is a team which is in my blood, and I would like to do well with them.
“The main objective will be to make sure we do better than last season and it is going to take a lot of work. It won’t be easy. But it is a challenge that I took and as a young coach, there is still a lot that I need to learn.
“But the experience that I had from my playing career and also what I did in the short space of time as a coach, I will use that to make sure I help the team win,” concluded Dlamini.
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By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi