Back to work for Highlands Park as they eye Top 8 glory - and cash

12 June 2019 - 07:00 By Nick Said
Highlands Park head coach Owen Da Gama is optimistic about the upcoming season.
Highlands Park head coach Owen Da Gama is optimistic about the upcoming season.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Highlands Park return to work on Wednesday as they build up to the new Absa Premiership season and also an MTN8 quarterfinal against Orlando Pirates that will provide them with an early chance to cause an upset.

The club finished seventh in the last league campaign, defying many predictions that they would be among the relegation contenders.

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In coach Owen Da Gama they have a campaigner well versed in the rigours of the elite league.

He is looking forward to their MTN8 campaign - not only as a shot at the R8m in prize money, but also a chance for some early-season fixtures at a time when other clubs are sitting idle with long stretches between league games.

“There is a lot of excitement from our side about competing in the MTN8. It is a competition that gives you a good foundation for the rest of the season,” Da Gama told TimesLIVE.

“Teams that play a few games in the MTN8 normally have stronger starts to the season with the added competitive matches and that will certainly help us.”

He and his technical team started work on Monday and will welcome the players back on Wednesday before they head to a week-long camp on Sunday.

Da Gama was guarded about new signings, saying only that they are looking at trialists and hope to add to their numbers, although it will be more about consolidating the squad than massive changes to the personnel.

“It will probably be six in, six out, or something like that. We will see.

"We're looking at some players that we identified during the last season and have invited them to have a look to see if they can help us. But the core of our squad will remain," he said.

"We had to send Spiwe Msimango, Sello Motsepe and Tapuwa Kapini for operations, so it is also about allowing them to recover 100% over this period.”

Highlands drew 14 of their 30 league games last season - a figure too high, according to Da Gama. He believes that this is where a major improvement will be required for the new campaign.

“There were five or six draws that should have been wins, and two or three losses that should have been draws, at least. That's maybe an extra 13 points, which would have seen us much higher up the table.

"That's what we need to work towards this season,” he said.

Highlands showed themselves to be a tough opponent to break down: only the top two in Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates lost fewer games (three each) than the seven defeats of Da Gama’s side.