Itumeleng Khune is in doubt for the Africa Cup of Nations – if Bafana Bafana qualify – after being ruled out of football for six months following shoulder surgery.
Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp announced on the club website on Wednesday that star goalkeeper Khune will be out of action until June after he went under the knife this week.
The 2019 Afcon, which was awarded to Egypt instead of South Africa on Tuesday, is scheduled to take place from 15 June-13 July, which means that Khune will be in a race against time to be ready for the continental showpiece.
It is already a major setback for Chiefs, who face Premiership log leaders Wits on Wednesday night at 7.30pm.
Middendorp’s outfit went down 2-1 to Mamelodi Sundowns at the weekend, and are eighth on the standings with just 21 points in 16 matches – 12 behind Wits.
The German mentor has opted to retain Khune’s replacement, Virgil Vries, in the starting line-up for the clash against the Clever Boys despite his blunder that handed Sundowns victory at the FNB Stadium.
Bruce Bvuma continues on the bench, but there are two new faces in the XI, which sees Teenage Hadebe come in for the injured Willard Katsande, and Kgotso Moleko replacing Godfrey Walusimbi at right back.
George Maluleka takes over the captaincy from Katsande.
“I’m calling on all in the team to bring their A-game. We have to, everyone should show bravery tonight,” Middendorp said. “We will do all that is possible to win this game. That’s if we go in with full confidence and the will to win. We have all what it takes to win any match.
“Of course, Wits are a tough opponent, but they’re not an exception. We must use all what’s in our control to take charge of this match.
“If there’s any player who struggles to be motivated to do well against the table-toppers, they’ll be in the wrong job.
“This match is not about league positions. It’s about playing the Wits side that’s currently on a high. We will apply all our resources to beat them. We must just convert our chances.”
Kaizer Chiefs Team
Virgil Vries, Kgotso Moleko, Daniel Cardoso, Mario Booysen, Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya, Teenage Hadebe, George Maluleka (captain), Hendrick Ekstein, Khama Billiat, Lebogang Manyama, Leonardo Castro.
Substitutes: Bruce Bvuma, Lorenzo Gordinho, Godfrey Walusimbi, Kabelo Mahlasela, Ryan Moon, Siphelele Ntshangase, Bernard Parker.