DURBAN - The suspension of Togolese international defender Sadate Ouro-Akoriko is not a set-back for AmaZulu, who visit Chippa United in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday night for their second game of the Absa Premiership.
The tough central defender had a forgettable match for the Durban side when he got sent off early in the first half of their 1-0 league win over Free State Stars in uMlazi at the weekend.
It forces coach Cavin Johnson to juggle his backline, something that doesn’t perturb him. When Ouro-Akoriko was red-carded, Vukile Mngqibisa took his place in the second half and helped the side to victory.
Johnson gave credit to his team for retaining their composure, and expressed confidence in the rest of the squad he inherited, having joined the club less than a fortnight before the season’s kick-off.
"Every player in the squad deserves a chance to play in the PSL," said Johnson.
“They always say that when you come from the NFD the players are not quality enough or lack experience but with the players that they brought in from the PSL and the players they mixed from the NFD the team looks okay; it looks like it can do something.”
Besides Mngqibisa the coach can call on Phumlani Gumede or Ayabulela Konqobe. The latter wasn’t in the matchday squad on Saturday, but Johnson said that had nothing to do with an “administrative” issue. The player reportedly signed for Chippa United as well, which could result in him being punished by the PSL.
Konqobe recently transferred from Thanda Royal Zulu, joining Usuthu for the second time after his first spell, on loan from Ajax Cape Town two seasons ago, was cut short for ill discipline.
It wouldn’t surprise if Konqobe is again overlooked by AmaZulu, so as to avoid being docked points later on should it be proved that he was ineligible to play for the Durban club.
Besides the forced defensive adjustment, Johnson’s other challenge is to ensure his charges do not get carried away with the opening round victory.
“We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground. The younger players must steal a bit of the experience of players like Boalefa Pule, (Thembela) Sikhakhane, Michael Morton and Mabhuti Khenyeza, and when they do that they can only get better,” reasoned Johnson.
AmaZulu joined Orlando Pirates as the only two teams to win at home at the weekend.
In light of Pirates’ woeful campaign last season, and the fact that AmaZulu are back in the Premiership after a two-year absence, they would make for strange early pace-setters if they win on Tuesday.
The last time AmaZulu and Chippa met in an Absa Premiership encounter, three years ago, the game ended in a 1-1 draw at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.