JOHANNESBURG - No disrespect to Wayne Sandilands, Jackson Mabokgwane and Siyabonga Mpontshane, but Orlando Pirates need safe hands between the sticks to seriously challenge for the Absa Premiership next season. And those pair of safely gloves are being wasted just a stone’s throw away in Naturena - one Brilliant Khuzwayo.
He is rumoured to have signed a pre-contract with the Buccaneers already. These reports have been well received, which truly speaks to Khuzwayo’s ability as a goalkeeper.
Some argue that Chiefs first choice and captain Itumeleng Khune does have competition in the national team - the problem is that he is warming the bench at the same club.
I can’t imagine Khuzwayo is happy being constantly overlooked by coach Steve Komphela even if his rival to the No.1 jersey is someone as good as Khune.
There is no doubt that Komphela is under incredible pressure to end his trophy drought since taking over the coaching job in June 2015, arriving at a time when Amakhosi had just been crowned league champions for the second time in three years.
He had big shoes to fill, but just about everyone has gotten a fair chance to prove whether they are Chiefs material or not. Sadly not Khuzwayo, who has only ever been considered for selection when Khune is injured.
Even then he is not guaranteed to make an appearance, the club having risked playing Khune even when he is not fully fit.
At the weekend, Chiefs hosted and beat Stellenbosch FC 2-1 in the Nedbank Cup to progress to the quarterfinals.
News that Khuzwayo would be starting from the bench was received with disbelief by several Amakhosi fans as well as some neutrals.
Bekezela mfoka Khuzwayo sekuseduze phambili. 🤗 pic.twitter.com/niosCpqjoK
Translation: Hang in there, you are almost there.
With Stellenbosch playing in a division lower than Chiefs and currently struggling in their pursuit to win promotion to the Premier League, there was an expectation that Khune would be rested and Khuzwayo given an opportunity to finally get some game time under his belt.
Incredibly, he again watched from the sidelines.
It’s not a rule, but it has certainly become common practice for coaches to give their second choice goalkeepers a chance to play in cup matches where the opposition doesn’t appear to be a serious threat.
Mamelodi Sundowns have done it, Pirates, although there remains question over whether they really have a preferred No.1, have rotated their goalies, reigning champions Bidvest Wits have often done it, Cape Town City, SuperSport United - the list goes on. But not Komphela.
His predecessor Stuart Baxter somehow managed to give game time to Khune, Khuzwayo and Reyaad Pieterse in his three years at Chiefs. Of course Khune’s persistent injuries then, which meant he missed out on being part of Bafana’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations squad in Equatorial Guinea, contributed to the coach’s rotation policy.
But Baxter also realised he had three very good goalkeepers who can hold the fort in the national team jersey at any given time and tried to keep them happy. Pieterse later joined SuperSport in pursuit of more game time. That hasn’t quite worked out, but that is his own fault really.
Khuzwayo can have better luck at Pirates if he moves - he is that good. And if he is holding out at Chiefs because he wants to be relevant, he can get that with the Buccaneers, too. But staying at Naturena means he will only be remembered from being in the team’s annual photo prior to a new season.