CAPE TOWN – Cape Town City have been hard at work in preparation for the new PSL season and it culminates with a high-profile friendly against Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday afternoon. The match is part of a new initiative, called the Mpumalanga Cultural Experience Cup, and it will be played at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit (3pm kickoff).
The friendly will provide the Cape club’s head coach, Benni McCarthy, with an opportunity to have a look at where he’s at with his team, and allow him to have a closer gander at the new players who have come into the squad. A match against Chiefs is always a good way to ascertain how a player responds to pressure.
City’s new men include wingers Riyaad Norodien and Gift Links, Ivorian defender Kouassi Kouadja and former Kaizer Chiefs and Free State Stars striker Siphelele Mthembu. Two promising youngsters have also been added to the squad: South Africa Under-20 defender Keanu Cupido and striker Karabo Ngwenya. Cupido was signed from French club AC Ajaccio and has regularly been touted as a player with a bright future.
But, while the Capetonians have some new players to blend into the team, it’s the old guard, the tried-and-tested names, who are likely to feature prominently for McCarthy - Roland Putsche, Mpho Matsi and Teko Modise in midfield, the creative impetus provided by Ayanda Patosi and, of course, Mr Consistency, the always reliable right-back Thami Mkhize, the man who took over the captaincy in the absence of Robyn Johannes last season. Now, with Johannes having left (signed for Wits), Mkhize is the leading candidate to be handed the captaincy on a permanent basis.
Mkhize, from Cato Ridge in KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the first names on McCarthy’s team sheet. The defender hardly ever has had a bad game, and the quality of his performances since arriving at City has seen him become a regular in the Bafana Bafana squad.
“It would be a big honour for me to lead the team,” said Mkhize. “But obviously no final decision has been made about the captaincy yet. But, I definitely look forward to wearing the armband with pride this season to help my club as best I can in all aspects.”
Mkhize believes it’s looking good at City, based on how the team has been going during pre-season training.
“The new players have fitted in well with us,” he said. “They have really made a big effort to adapt to the team and to adjust to life in Cape Town. As a team, we’ve really worked hard since we’ve started pre-season. The coach and his technical team must be commended for the work they’ve done with us. The guys have all come to the party to ensure we will be ready by the time the first PSL game comes.”
As for the Chiefs friendly on Saturday, Mkhize said they were in for a really tough, competitive encounter.
“The coaches will expect us to play at a higher intensity than we have in previous friendlies,” said the right-back. “This one will be more like a league match because of the opposition we face and because of the magnitude of it. But this Chiefs match is the ideal preparation for our first league match against SuperSport.”
The PSL is, of course, in a state of uncertainty right now as nobody really knows what the next day has in store. Football clubs are in a situation where they have to prepare their squads while, at the same time, Ajax Cape Town are looking to interdict the start of the season, together with all the other legal issues still to come.