Gavin Hunt hoping Kaizer Chiefs trio’s partnership blossoms
JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs coach Gavin Hunt is excited with the early signs of a fruitful partnership between Samir Nurkovic, Nkosingiphile Ngcobo and Happy Mashiane after the trio steered the team out of troubled waters within a week.
The return of Nurkovic to training late last year, after a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to an injury, was widely welcomed by the Amakhosi faithful.
However, he didn't instantly feature for the beleaguered Hunt's team owing to a contractual dispute.
The Serb was reportedly unsettled by an offer from Egyptian giants Al Ahly, which are coached by Pitso Mosimane. However, Chiefs hung on to their man by offering him an improved contract as they could not afford to lose him during their one-year transfer ban.
Upon his return to the starting line-up in domestic football, Nurkovic made an immediate impact, scoring the solitary goal during their win over AmaZulu a week ago. From thereon, Nurkovic contributed with two assists in as many matches.
Ngcobo (21) and Mashiane (23) both scored in Chiefs' last two matches with “big brother” Nurkovic (28) setting up the former during their recent 3-0 win over Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila at home on Tuesday afternoon, and the latter during their 2-1 win over Cape Town City on Saturday.
“Any good players can play with anybody. They can play with each other. So, the idea is to play to Samir but we can't do that all the time because of other situations,” said Hunt, who hasn't been able to select a steady starting line-up this season due to suspensions and injuries.
Since cutting his football teeth in the reserve team as captain and the Under-20 national team, Ngcobo has been earmarked as the future talisman of Chiefs. The midfielder has shown flashes of his ability this season after scoring three goals. But Hunt says he's not a finished product just yet.
“We need to go get the boy (in better positions) because I think he has three or four goals this season. But we need to get him in those positions more often because he's got the ability,” said Hunt, who's polished some raw talent into superstars.
“But at the moment we are trying to work on his defensive side of the game. It's something that he's going to learn in each game. But we hope that combination can continue to blossom a little better going forward in the season.”
Chiefs' season-long transfer ban has forced Hunt into a corner, having had to throw the young players in the deep end.
Most have swum so far, thanks to the guidance of senior players in the team.
Players like Darrel Matsheke (21) and Njabulo Blom (21), who marshalled the engine room with ease against Tshakhuma have excelled, while the introduction of Mashiane worked wonders in the second half of that game after he provided an assist to Lebogang Manyama and scored the third goal.
“We need to get the balance (between the seniors and youngsters) right, because I know in the derby I had too many of them (youngsters) playing. But we had to test them somewhere. We have to be careful. But in our situation, they have to play and learn very fast,” Hunt said.
“I've liked Happy from the first time I saw him. He's my type of player and a very good crosser of the ball. So, we need to work on that a little more.”