at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Whether Kaizer Chiefs’ success in the Gauteng Cup at the weekend is the precursor to a glut of silverware in the coming season, even Paul the Octopus, returning from the grave, might find hard to predict.
Pre-season shenanigans are never the best gauge of future glories, but then the Amakhosi’s success on Saturday in Atteridgeville can’t have done Stuart Baxter and his charges any harm for the weeks and months ahead.
If the final between Chiefs and Bidvest Wits was hardly a game to set the pulses racing, playing two games in a day is always likely see a dip in quality, with squads stretched to their limits.
The Amakhosi fans certainly seemed happy enough with a victory on penalties, and Baxter’s fist pump after Sthembiso Ngcobo’s final spot kick emphasised that the win also meant plenty to the Amakhosi’s new coach.
Chiefs go into the new season armed not just with a new coach, but with plenty of new signings too. The Amakhosi clearly saw their defence as a major source of worry, and have responded by pulling in a Bafana threesome of Siboniso Gaxa, Eric Matoho and Morgan Gould.
All three started the semi-final against Moroka Swallows, and Chiefs can take heart from the fact that last season’s top scorers in the Absa Premiership, albeit they were fielding a weakened side, were kept at bay with relative ease.
Chiefs’ attack thrived in the semifinal too, helped though they were by some dreadful Birds defending. Bernard Parker has done enough pre-season to suggest the arrival of Baxter might just be able to revitalise his career.
Parker netted Chiefs’ second in a 3-0 win over Swallows, and was a constant menace, as was Lehlohonolo Majoro, who took the field as a first-half substitute for another new man, Kingston Nkatha.
Nkatha’s misfortune was Majoro’s luck as the Chiefs striker broke free to net the Amakhosi opener, and laid on their next two goals for Parker and George Lebese.
The only worry for Chiefs was an injury picked up by Siphiwe Tshabalala following a heavy challenge from new Swallows signing Felix Obada.
For the Birds, it was a day to forget, although Zeca Marques can point to the fact that this was a far cry from their best side available. David Mathebula and Greg Etafia were both rested with injuries, while Giorgi Nergadze was also missing, and Siyabonga Nomvethe and Obada only came on as second-half substitutes.
“We were specifically resting the Mathebulas, Nomvethes and Nergadzes of this world, because they played an awful lot of minutes last season,” explained Swallows chairman Leon Prins yesterday, adding that he had full faith in new head coach Zeca Marques.
“It’s going to be a tough season, but I have a lot of faith in the squad, there is a great team spirit and Zeca deserves his opportunity.”
Prins did admit that competition was likely to be trickier this season because of the money the likes of Chiefs and Wits had been spending. “Look at the industry, Brian Joffe wants to challenge, and there’s Chiefs, these okes are throwing gazillions around,” said Prins.
“It’s good for the public and the league is getting tougher. (But) we will give it a full go and our main ambition is to get more points than last season.”
Obada is the only man Swallows have brought in thus far, and the Birds squad did look a bit thin on Saturday, particularly in an error-prone defence.
“There will be one or two (new signings),” said Prins.
“But the reality is there is no point signing five guys who are the same as what we’ve got.
“You only want to sign people who can make a difference. I think Obada can. People must not forget that we’d signed a lot of players over the past 18 months. If I had the money and he was available, I would sign Siya Sangweni as a central defender. But he’s not available.
“If someone can tell me there’s a central defender available who is better than Mungomeni, Nergadze and Hendricks I’ll be all ears, but I don’t think there is.”
For Wits, meanwhile, this was also a heartening weekend, as they took down SuperSport United in a tight opening match, and then pushed the Amakhosi all the way.
The experience added in the form of Aaron Mokoena, Tinashe Nengomasha and Thomas Sweswe does look like it could give the Clever Boys a more solid backbone in the coming campaign.
Elsewhere, Botswanan international Ofentse Nato came on and netted the winner against SuperSport, while Calvin Kadi also got a run against Matsatsantsa, even though he looked a little rusty.
Certainly the main task for new coach Antonio Lopez Habas, who sat in the stands scribbling notes as he awaits his work permit, seems to be to get Wits to gel as an attacking force in the weeks ahead. – The Star