Kaizer Chiefs take Muhammad Ali inspiration in Cape Town City win
Kaizer Chiefs abandoned their time-honoured tradition of seeking to play expansive and entertaining football as South Africa's best supported team were reduced to a defensive wall facing a battering ram when they met unbeaten Cape Town City in the Premier Soccer League on Wednesday.
However, the ploy worked to deliver a first victory of the season for Steve Komphela's team, relieving the manager of the increasing pressure around his tenure and bringing a smile to millions.
Komphela, sitting in the hottest seat in South African sport, has finally learnt the reality that winning far exceeds the concept of 'entertaining football' and a new practical approach might just be the tonic to get Amakhosi back to winning ways.
They are now in a third season without any silverware since Stuart Baxter departed.
When he did, Komphela became the first South African-born manager in decades at the helm and, although he did not say it directly, frequently made reference to changing Chiefs' way of playing from the 'quick turnover' approach that brought Baxter two titles in the space of three seasons.
It was seen as too direct and without the requisite touches of the ball that the public like. Chiefs might have subsequently looked good at times as they passed the ball around in Komphela's first two seasons in charge, but they were too often undone by their tactical inflexibility as the coach kept trying to prove his point.
At the start of the new campaign, having yet to win a trophy, he could no longer afford the niceties of an expansive approach and took boxing legend Muhammad Ali's 'rope-a-dope' tactic into the footballing arena as the practicalities of his situation finally seemed to have sunk in.
Chiefs swayed at the back as Ali did on the ropes all those years ago in the 'Rumble in the Jungle' in Kinshasa against a barrage from George Foreman, who eventually tired out to allow Ali to pick him off to win the world heavyweight title.
It was not exactly the same script on Wednesday night, but it wasn't too far off...
Chiefs sat back and took the heat, caught City just after half-time to score their first goal, then really sat back and defended stoutly under siege before countering to score a second with 10 minutes to go to seal up the three points.
Komphela seemed almost embarrassed afterwards in explaining his new modus operandi.
"There are two ways of playing football -- you give the initiative or you take it, and we opted to give the initiative over for obvious reasons, because if you take the initiative and you are too expansive, you are creating too big a distance for the players and chances are you need to handle a lot if you are playing an honest game.
"We needed to be smart and it's true we sat back...But it paid off," Komphela continued, "but we didn't only park the bus, we came out nicely and played.
"You would expect Chiefs to be more dictating, be more on the ball and all that," he added. "It seems these days the teams with less of the possession do the hurting.
"We decided to give away the initiative a bit but it was deliberate," he said.
Komphela has been on thin ice at the club with the patience of management wearing thin.
However, the away win over the previously unbeaten Cape Town City will give him breathing space - although Chiefs can ill-afford any slip ups on Saturday when they host champions Bidvest Wits at Soccer City.
The taste of victory was obviously sweet, even if consumed with a little humble pie.