How confident is Chiefs against SuperSportThomas Kwenaite
They are probably doing an introspection down Naturena way ahead of Saturday’s crunch Telkom Knockout quarterfinal encounter against SuperSport United, a team many consider their hoodoo side scheduled for the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
In spite of being proud owners of an enviable reputation as the undisputed Cup kings of South African football, the glamour boys of South Africa appear to have lost their shine and fallen on really hard times, if recent results are anything to go by.
They have gone through three barren years without lifting a single trophy, something unheard of about the gold shirted Amakhosi, except perhaps if one counts the insignificant perhaps the Macufe Cup, which they contest annually against Bloemfontein Celtic and which they have won twice during the last two years.
Otherwise, not only have they fallen on hard times, but that fear factor they used to elicit every time they entered the field has disappeared, with the country’s minnows like Polokwane City boasting of claiming their scalps in a 1-0 victory recently.
A goalless draw with Highlands Park, a loss to Polokwane City, a 1-1 draw with Black Leopards before they eliminated the Venda side 4-2 in a penalty shootout was followed by last week’s debilitating 2-1 setback at the hands of bitter rivals Orlando Pirates.
But as they prepare for yet another uphill fight against their perennial nemesis – SuperSport United – it must be weighing heavily on their minds that another loss would be testing the patience of their volatile supporters, especially because they are playing at the same stadium where their followers lost their capacity to reason and trashed the iconic World Cup venue after an embarrassing loss to Free State Stars.
But of greater importance is that fact that SuperSport heaped misery on the Amakhosi by dumping them from the previous cup competition, the MTN 8 and they are either going to approach this match with trepidation or throw caution to the wind and grab Kaitano Tembo’s men by the throat and never let go until the final whistle.
The only problem is that with Giovanni Solinas at the helm, you never know whether Chiefs, traditionally an attacking team that has acquired respect because of their all-out-attacking style, sometimes embark on an alien approach by sitting back and inviting the opposition to come at them as they park a bus.
They have the quality and the attacking impetus provided by Khama Billiat who can lead the line assisted by Dumisani Zulu and veteran Bernard Parker, but in truth, their soft underbelly is their defence which is easily breached these days and conceding a goal per game.
At this late stage of the season, Solinas seems to be experimenting with his rear-guard and sometimes unsure whether to pair Siya Ngezana with Daniel Cardoso, Eric Mathoho or Mario Booysens with his indecisiveness contributing to disastrous consequences.
United on the other had has overcome the shocking period in which they fought relegation under Eric Tinkler, but loyal servant Kaitano Tembo appears to have steadied the ship and the team is now sailing under calmer waters even though injuries are a menace to their ambitions.
First it was Thabo Mnyamane, followed by Bradley Grobler and now skipper Dean Furman has joined them in the casualty ward after dislocating his shoulder and would be supporting the team from the grandstands after undergoing surgery.
Can Chiefs Solinas infuse enough confidence in his players to rise above the mental challenge they are facing against a super confident Supersport and put one over the blue shirted lads from Tshwane? Expect more woes for the boys from Naturena.