All eyes on youngster Samkelo Zwane as Kaizer Chiefs take on Royal AM in Nedbank Cup

FILE - Samkelo Zwane in action for Kaizer Chiefs. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

FILE - Samkelo Zwane in action for Kaizer Chiefs. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Published Apr 15, 2023


Johannesburg — An early change of schools and sport activities has elevated Samkelo Zwane to being one of the most important figures at Kaizer Chiefs this season.

A son to former Orlando Pirates’ winger Eugene Zwane, one would be forgiven for assuming that the pathway was somewhat pre-set for Samkelo to follow in his father’s footsteps.

But that wasn’t the case as Samkelo started out as a rugby player at Maragon Mooikloof primary school before Eugene noticed his son’s football abilities and transferred him to King’s College.

“I realised that this boy would be a good footballer when he was seven. Then, he was playing rugby at Maragon Mooikloof because they didn't have football,” Eugene told the Sowetan last year.

“(But) I quickly transferred him to King's College in Marlboro where there's football. He always had that bond with the ball, keeping it in between his legs even when he was just seated.”

That transfer and growth at King’s College bore good news for Eugene’s distant cousin Arthur Zwane who invited Samkelo for trials at Chiefs with their development structures in 2019.

Samkelo impressed at Chiefs that he was quickly drafted into the reserve team where he earned his stripes and got promoted to the first team under uncle Zwane this season.

“I think Samkelo is something else – for me – not because we developed him as a club. But he’s got rare qualities in him. His technical ability and execution is second to none,” said Arthur on Samkelo’s growth.

“That will always make him a special player because we are lacking such players in South Africa that can be able to pin-point a 40 meter pass and still be creative and take risks at the back.”

Those technical abilities and executions couldn’t have come at a better for Chiefs who needed a replacement for Njabulo Blom, who left the club for St. Louis City in the United States last year.

And while Samkelo is not a finished product like Blom, his comfortability with the ball makes the team tick going forward, easing the pressure in defence.

“Njabulo did very well. But unfortunately, he had to go for greener pastures. And we had to look at a modern soccer player that can make us tick and help the defence,” Arthur said.

“When it comes to that (defence) he is (Zwane) still lacking because that’s not him. But whenever he has the ball, the more we are on the ball and that means we’ll defend less.

“He uses the ball very wisely and he knows when to pass the ball and which area to pass in order for us to hurt the oppositions.”

Samkelo has been a missing piece in Chiefs’ puzzle and fight for second spot in the league and Nedbank Cup crown this year that he’s also filled in for senior players, such as Cole Alexander, who were out for various reasons.

“I am talking about senior players that when we needed them were unfortunately not available due to unforeseen circumstances,” Arthur said.

“When I said this was our most difficult season, that's what I meant: We couldn’t keep a consistent starting-line up because of that. Most of our seniors were not available due to injuries.”

And having started the last two matches, partnering Siyethemba Sithebe and Yusuf Maart, Samkelo is expected to start against Royal AM in the Nedbank Cup quarter-final this afternoon.

Chiefs are still “grooming him to settle in because earlier on we didn’t want to put him under pressure” but every player has to play their part in this stage of the season. Hence Samkelo has to lead.

“Unfortunately, he’s in the thick of things now and he must lead with the support of the senior players on the field and those who are not players. And that’s the plus we have in the squad,” Arthur said.


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