Kaizer Chiefs are fretting over the fitness of captain and goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune ahead of Thursday’s crunch Absa Premiership tie at Mamelodi Sundowns.
Khune didn’t feature for Bafana Bafana in their chaotic African Nations Championship loss to Nigeria on Sunday and, by yesterday, Amakhosi had still not received a full report from national team officials about the extent of his injury.
“We are in the dark,” said Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter about Khune’s supposed injury. “I spoke to Gordon (Igesund) and he said it was a slight injury … nothing to worry about.
“That was on Friday. But then I was surprised he was written off for the game (against Nigeria). Our doctors got hold of (Bafana) doctors, but we have received nothing to support the diagnosis. No scans, nothing.”
More confusion reigned when Baxter said he had spoken to Khune, who told him the injury “was not bad”, and the goalkeeper had also apparently declared himself fit.
Whatever the case, Baxter is still unhappy that his programme had to be interrupted by the Chan, with Khune, Bernard Parker, Tefu Mashamaite and Siphiwe Tshabalala all now set to rejoin Chiefs today ahead of Thursday’s top-of-the-table clash (Loftus Versfeld, kick-off 7.30pm).
“In my years as a coach I have never experienced as much disruption as I have this season.
“It’s been almost impossible to plan, an absolute nightmare in terms of cancelled games and matches involving the national team. As a result, we face 17 games in two months, and in between there’s that international game between Bafana and Brazil (on March 5).
“Now I have four players in tournament mode coming back into the team.
“They are our players and yes, they are available for Thursday. But we have to check if they are mentally and physically fit.”
Baxter is almost certain to hand a debut to midfielder George Maluleka, recruited during this transfer window from SuperSport United.
“I’m not going to give you my team, but when you sign a player, you sign him with the view that he will play. George has done well since he came here. He has certainly put himself up for selection. I’m pleased to work with him.”
Chiefs were still awaiting word from Sundowns about Katlego Mphela, the striker who signed a pre-contract with them but has six months remaining on his current deal with the Brazilians.
“We wrote them a letter informing them that we have concluded an agreement with Mphela, but we haven’t had any response,” said Chiefs team manager Bobby Motaung.
Amakhosi had also expressed interest in signing Edward Manqele, but again, Motaung said Sundowns had yet to respond to their query about the striker, who is on loan at Moroka Swallows.
If Sundowns refuse to release Mphela, Chiefs will be a striker short for the remainder of the season given that Lehlohonolo Majoro has opted to join Orlando Pirates, although Motaung insisted he’s still waiting for official contact.
“I saw Majoro on TV (in the match between Pirates and SuperSport).
“But I have not had any official approach from Pirates for his services. There has been informal confirmation from them that he’s signed a pre-contract with them, but we will wait for a letter because we are professional.”
Meanwhile, both Baxter and Motaung seemed to have a go at the Chan, with the latter in particular scathing. “I will be honest ... I have not watched even one match,” Motaung said.
Baxter stated he had tried his best to watch all the games, “but I was disappointed with the level of football. It’s been at times very poor, It has not caught fire and it’s really been a challenge to make it sound exciting”. - The Star