JOHANNESBURG – There is great anticipation to see Kaizer Chiefs take on Free State Stars twice - once in the Absa Premiership tomorrow night and later in the semifinals of the Nedbank Cup - this month.
And much of the interest in seeing these two sides wrestle each other has to be put down to speculation that with Steve Komphela almost certainly on his way out of Naturena, Luc Eymael has been linked to the Chiefs job for some time now as a possible replacement.
Komphela, who is on the last leg of his three-year contract with Amakhosi, also added fuel to the fire last week when he issued a warning to coaches already raising their hands as his potential successors, particularly Eymael.
But just how good is the Chiefs coach’s track record in comparison to that of the Belgian in the last three years or so?
A year on into Komphela’s stint at Chiefs, Eymael also arrived at Polokwane City as an unexpected choice, but nevertheless with an impressive CV.
Chiefs reached two cup finals in four months during Komphela’s first season, but were heavily criticised for a performance that all but set the tone for the rest of his tenure. To date, he is still searching for his first silverware and the Nedbank Cup remains his last chance saloon as he nears the end of his contract.
Eymael, although he also has no trophies to show for his efforts since arriving in 2016, has certainly answered all questions regarding his ability - and has done so at more than one club. When the Belgian resigned from City, they were fifth on the league table and - thanks to Eymael’s foundation there, held on to finish in the top eight despite his departure.
Perhaps Chiefs never really freshened up their championship winning side when Stuart Baxter left and Komphela took over, but this remains a club with the financial muscle to improve if they so choose. Eymael is on the record saying he was a one-man technical team at City, and it is no secret that their pockets aren’t as deep as those of Amakhosi even with businessman Johnny Mogaladi the chairman.
For Eymael to turn them into dark horses in the title race was a massive statement, and it’s proved to be no fluke seeing that he’s done the same at Free State Stars almost two years later - another team that had made peace with survival in the Premier League being their sole target until the Belgian mentor stepped in late in August.
Komphela has had players come and go at Chiefs and has still not won the fans over.
It would come as a huge surprise if Chiefs were to renew Komphela’s contract. The coach himself seems prepared for any eventuality, reiterating that the job or “project” he started at Chiefs nearly three years ago isn’t necessarily for him to complete - simply the words of a man who knows he is probably on his way out.
It is unlikely he still has the backing of the club management, who will argue they have given him enough time to deliver, although their full support in terms of playing personnel has often been debated.
Eymael’s nature as a nomad also suggests he may very well be on his way out. He revealed turning down a job at Ajax Cape Town in December before Muhsin Ertugral was appointed to try save the Urban Warriors from relegation, but Stars will have their work cut out in trying to keep him in Bethlehem for another season.