Owen Da Gama refuses to let his guard down in Highlands Park's imminent promotion
Posted: 26 March 2018 Time: 19:30
Highlands Park coach Owen Da Gama has refused to count his chickens before they hatch, despite being just four points from Absa Premiership promotion.
Highlands are currently runaway leaders in the First Division with a 15-point lead over their nearest rivals Black Leopards and Real Kings, with just six games to go.
Four more points from their remaining games would guarantee the Lions of the North a return to the top flight, provided Leopards and Kings go unbeaten.
However, despite the odds counting massively in his side’s favour, Da Gama insists the step-by-step approach will continue until such a time that the championship is secured.
“We’ve seen how things can turn around. We smell the coffee, yes, but we can’t drink it just yet. We’re just looking at one game at a time,” Da Gama tells KickOff.com.
Highlands will be making the gruelling trip to Thohoyandou this weekend, where promotion play-off hopefuls Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhundila lay in wait, and ‘Rubber Doll’ is under no illusion of what to expect.
“Tshakhuma is a very dangerous team away in Venda and, as you know, it’s always very difficult to travel that way and play there. It’s always been an advantage to them and Black Leopards,” he adds.
“But, we understand the importance of going there and doing very well against them.
“There’s a little bit of room, but I’ve seen so many times how six games can suddenly become two games.
“But we are looking forward to ending the season on a high note, and that’s all that’s important.”
Da Gama is also no stranger to battling his way through the lower divisions, having previously lead Dynamos and Platinum Stars (then-Silver Stars) to the Premiership, but says this time around has been increasingly difficult with the PSL’s under-23 rule.
“I’ve done this before with Silver Stars (2003) and with Dynamos (1998) as well, but that experience counts for little because things change all the time,” he notes.
“Firstly what has made it so hard is the under-23 rule, where at least two must be on the field at all times and at least three on the bench – five in total.
“But we do have some good experience – there’s Mothobi Mvala, Tapuwa Kapini, Moeketsi Sekola, Peter Shalulile, so that has certainly helped this season.
“I can’t say there’s someone in particular who has stood out for us, because we’ve played well as a team. There were some games where Shalulile stood out, then Mvala and then Sekola, but I think the highlight of my experience with team is that everyone has worked as a collective.”