Platinum Stars appear to be a club on a mission in 2015/16. Dikwena are top of the Absa Premiership table, and comfortably too, with games in hand and almost a third of the season behind us.
A key feature for the Rustenburg outfit has been their attack, which has the best strike-rate on average for the campaign – 15 goals scored in eight games at a ratio of 1.87 per game.
More noteworthy for Stars is that no single player has scored more than three goals. Bonginkosi Ntuli is that man, but another important figure has been seasoned striker Eleazar Rodgers.
Apart from scoring twice, the former Santos and Mamelodi Sundowns front-man also has at least four assists to his name. The PSL caught up with lanky 30-year-old to find out what has been making Cavin Johnson’s men tick this year.
PSL: Platinum Stars have done excellently so far, building up those points without too much of fuss. You guys must be pleased with the start?
Eleazar Rodgers (ER): “We’ve got to be happy with the way things have panned out so far. It’s always good to be at the top and being in the top five with almost a third of the season is just great for us. It also means that you find yourself stressing less about what could and what could not happen in the coming months. Last season we were obviously fighting to survive, but this year it’s been a welcome change. It give us belief and confidence knowing we have a chance to fight for the title, so we’re all delighted with the progress thus far.”
PSL: Without meaning to sound pessimistic, it’s one thing getting there and another to stay there. Are you confident you can sustain this bright beginning?
ER: “It’s definitely going to be difficult to maintain our position throughout the season. Many teams start off well, like we have done, but then fade away as time goes along. But I do have faith in the squad we have and the coaching staff as well. However, I feel that it will ultimately come down to us as individuals, how we handle the pressure of the top. Once you at the top, everyone wants to bring you down. So it will be about how we handle things, both on and off the field, mentally how we cope. Hopefully we can remain in the top five at least.”
PSL: There are a lot of different names up there this season and sustaining their starts too. Clubs like Mpumalanga Black Aces, yourselves and Bloemfontein Celtic. Does that encourage you?
ER: “It’s great to have so many unfamiliar teams up there. The big clubs always have pressure on them to do well and that can sometimes count against them. (Bidvest) Wits have been consistently doing well the last few seasons. Ajax (Cape Town) are another and SuperSport (United). Platinum Stars can be in that bracket too. Maybe this season we’ll be in for a surprise. The big teams people always want to see them up there and they’ve gotten then because of consistency over a long period of time. So we’re hoping there’ll be a change this year and the teams that are there can sustain it.”
PSL: What has been a standout feature has been the fact that the workload of goals has been shared? Bongi Ntuli has three and Ndumiso Mabena and Robert Ng’ambi two. Is this is a good sign?
ER: That has been a big plus because you want all your attacking players to be involved in scoring. It’s a wonderful sign of progression and shows we are not overly reliant on one or two individuals to do all the work. When that does happen, you also find that planning of the opponents is made easier because they know they just have one or two individuals to watch out for. Now it doesn’t matter who is playing on the day, anyone of us can score. That’s where the coach comes in…he knows how to utilise each one of us. The midfielders are also chipping in, Ng’ambi and (Sibusiso) Msomi, so that all bodes well going forward.”
PSL: You touched on the coach there and he seems to have been an absolute revelation since returning from SuperSport last season. What has his role been?
ER: “For me I just joined Platinum Stars now. A few seasons back they were already contending for the league with the same coach and winning cups too. So obviously when he returned he was very welcome because of what he did previously, it was like the return of a prodigal son, who left home and has now come back.
“Not too much changed in the time when he was away, he knew a lot of the players, the staff, so he fitted in. He went away, he gained more experience and wisdom. If you speak to the players, they will tell you he’s a coach that wants you to play. He’s a family man, it’s a united group, no individual is bigger than the team and there’s no compromise for hard work. That’s Cavin Johnson.”
PSL: Finally, tell us about your own performances and some of your targets for the season.
ER: “I’ve played in all of the games so far, but I would have obviously liked to have scored more goals. Personally, I like to score a goal a game, although that is a stiff ask. But to be honest, I could have done it so far. I think I’ve still done okay, I feel I am contributing and I’ve been involved in many goals. My work-rate is always there, I’m always willing to fight, run and try hard for the team.
“Before I left Santos and went to Sundowns I was top goal scorer in the league with 12 goals. I won’t put myself under any extra pressure or anything, but I’d love to beat that mark. That’s my goal. Last season I came a bit close, so hopefully I can give it another good go this year. Obviously I don’t want to limit myself to 12, but that’s the minimum. That’s my personal goal. For the team, it’s to win silverware, if not the league then a cup.”