Thanda and Sikhakhane: From relegation contenders to triumphant champs

@ Backpagepix
@ Backpagepix

Thanda Royal Zulu, the 2016/17 champions of the National First Division, were crowned in style in Durban on Sunday afternoon.Thanda Royal Zulu are now recipients of a brand new NFD trophy and new set of of medals. This is a just reward for a side that has dominated the NFD league for the better part of the 2016/17 season.

Under coach Roger Sikhakhane, Thanda Royal Zulu took off on high speed in August 2016 signalling the beginning of brighter days. But they had their doubters – many of whom believed the fire will be extinguished midway through the tough NFD season. But as they surged forward and accumulated points in January 2017, the onlookers and pundits alike were captivated.

Then in February 2017 came a mini-turbulence – a few draws along the way. The Richards Bay outfit was subjected to doubts once again. “Relax”; Sikhakhane implored everyone. As a pilot in charge of this airplane, he seemingly knew that the stumble was caused by a temporal cloud cover and like a man who has already managed to usher a club from NFD to Premier Division, he reminded people that he was familiar with the route.

As Sikhakhane went on stage on Sunday at the Sugar Ray Stadium, he wore a radiant smile in his face. The second phase of his mission at Thanda Royal Zulu has been accomplished. (For those with short memories, his first mission was to save a Thanda Royal Zulu side that was languishing at the bottom of the 2015/16 NFD log with only a few games to spare).

The third phase will be to prepare for Premier Division (Absa Premiership) football. This will be tough and demanding for the KZN club. After all, they are no strangers to the Premier Division but a lot has changed since they were residents of this division almost eight years ago.

Sikhakhane is often modest of his achievements: “We achieved this as a team, so one man cannot take credit,” he told a newspaper reporter recently. “Thanda (Royal Zulu) management has created an environment whereby it we could challenge for big honours.” Such words are expected from a coach – this is after all the game that loves humble statements. But there is another version – that of a coach who took a club back to the ‘promised land’ – the destination they have been flirting with unsuccessfully for seven years. Bravo to that!

This article was sourced from the PSL website.

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