JOHANNESBURG - Will Steve Komphela be bold against Bidvest Wits on Saturday?
The Kaizer Chiefs coach came under some criticism last weekend following his side’s goalless draw against Absa Premiership leaders Mamelodi Sundowns at FNB Stadium. A win there would have put pressure on the Brazilians, cutting their lead at the summit to just two points. It remains five.
But Komphela defended his decision to leave new striker Leonardo Castro, who had scored on debut a week earlier, on the bench in favour of the ineffective Ryan Moon and Dumisani Zuma. The Amakhosi coach should have gone for broke, pundits and supporters argued.
Chiefs travel to reigning champions Wits on Saturday evening looking to keep up with fellow title challengers, but one wonders if Komphela will go for the jugular.
Although the top of the table clash against Sundowns in front of a sell-out crowd of 70 000 was anything but dull, it was evident that Chiefs were perhaps the side with an advantage when considering their dominance over an unusually conservative Downs outfit.
Pitso Mosimane, the coach of the Brazilians, was happy to have walked away from FNB Stadium, a venue where he had not won a single game in three seasons, with a point, although that stretched his winless record there to a fourth campaign.
Komphela admitted he was filled with regret - but he has a chance to right the wrongs of the previous match by playing all his cards.
Chiefs have faced Wits twice already this season, and in both games the Glamour Boys had the upper hand but faild to win. In the first round of their league clash, a 10-man Wits had to come from behind in referee’s optional time to grab a late equaliser through Egyptian striker Amr Gamal.
And then again when the two sides met in the Telkom Knockout semi-final in November, Wits survived an onslaught from a Chiefs team that had to play part of the first half and the rest of the second without midfielder Wiseman Meyiwa after he was sent off for a reckless stamp on Daine Klate.
The Clever Boys managed a goal and defended with their lives to progress to the final, where they narrowly beat Bloemfontein Celtic to be crowned champions.
Komphela can’t afford to be cautious on Saturday - Chiefs have struggled for goals with the same faces throughout his tenure and he now has a new combination that could change all that. Castro was joined at Naturena by midfield maestro Siphelele Ntshangase in January, but the two have yet to start a game, let alone have enough time on the pitch together.
While Castro’s impact has been quite clear from the minute he took to the pitch on debut away to Baroka FC in a 2-1 win, scoring with virtually his first touch, it appears Komphela hasn’t necessarily figured out how to best use Ntshangase, who thrives in the No 10 role behind the strikers.
That responsibility has more recently been given to old guard Siphiwe Tshabalala, who struggles to finish games these days.
Komphela is in the last few months of his contract before it comes up for review at the end of the season or he is told to pack his bags. There is no time like now to be a bit bold and try out different outlets to get Chiefs an attack to match their impressive defensive work, which is the best in the league at the moment.
Cowering behind tactics and the need to see players adjust could cost the coach the league title, which some are already saying is for Sundowns to lose, as well as his job.