Cape Town - Nkosingiphile Ngcobo produced a cameo performance which underpinned a matchwinning performance by underprepared Kaizer Chiefs amid fears they would run out of steam 90 minutes against the hitherto high-flying Sekhukhune United.
Chiefs' stand-in coach Arthur Zwane, in the absence of Covid-hit head honcho Stuart Baxter, said after his side's 2-0 win that the match preparation was far from ideal.
"It is has been a very, very tough fortnight coming into this match," said Zwane. "The players returned to training in drips and drabs. We produced a good performance this evening. I never thought they would play for 90 minutes. Credit to the boys."
"I think we planned very well, and it worked for us. We had a good first half, but we knew that in the second half, energy levels would drop. When that happened, we could start making mistakes, so we had to beef up the defence. We already had that advantage of scoring first.
"This is a big league, so if you get the opportunity to score first, it is an advantage especially given the situation we find ourselves in as a team.
"We knew that our players, as one could see in the last 20 minutes, started cramping.
"(Defender) Reeve Frosler was not even comfortable breathing. We were forced to make changes which is something that we anticipated.
"We did not expect such a good performance, especially as we could not prepare thoroughly as we would have loved to like we usually do.
"Everything happens for a reason, and we thank God for giving the boys the strength, considering where we come from."
Apart from Chiefs' ability to produce a sustained 90-minute performance, the major talking point was the Man of the Match performance by the Pietermaritzburg-born baby faced midfielder Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, one of two Ngcobo's in Chiefs' matchday squad yesterday. The other Ngcobo is defender Njabulo, the Bafana Bafana cap.
Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, enjoying a rare start, surprised all and sundry. He left many wondering why he is not a regular starter in the team. Apart from scoring a goal with a classy left-foot drive he also provided the assist for the Chiefs' second goal.
Zwane was at pains to explain that Nkosingiphile Ngcobo was given a breather of late after enduring a heavy workload that spilt over from last new season.
“Sometimes in football, more especially when we come from a season that was tough for us because we played Champions League, domestic league, and cup games at the same time. He and Njabulo (Blom) and many other youngsters played a lot of games,” said Zwane.
“You could see them dropping a little bit in terms of being fatigued, here and there. We had to manage him, and we see now how he is coming back stronger.
"He is alive again, and we are happy to see him like this, showcasing his talent and performing as he did.”
Chiefs' matchwinning performance means they have won four of their last five league matches. They are undefeated in their last five outings, with one draw.
Royal AM is next on the Chiefs' hit list, and since the two teams are both in the upper reaches of the Premiership standings, it has all the trappings of a top-of-the-table clash at Chatsworth Stadium on Sunday.