JOHANNESBURG – Deemed as the traditional PSL domestic season curtain raiser, the Carling Black Label Cup will return for its eighth edition tomorrow as old rivals Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs clash for Soweto’s bragging rights at FNB Stadium.
However, with the right to select the starting line-ups given to the supporters, Justice Chabalala found himself in an unfamiliar position - getting the starting nod alongside captain Happy Jele in the heart of Pirates’ defence.
You see, before that, Chabalala had spent last season in the stands or demoted to the reserves, while Marshall Munentsi and Alfred Ndengane rotated as Jele’s partner.
“They know that Justice Chabalala did well in the past two seasons, and they know he can still do well,” he said. “To be honest, I always tell myself, I don’t tell anyone, I have jealousy inside when someone is playing, I say ‘I can do better’.
It’s a blessing that the fans voted for me. I have been sitting without playing for too long. I believe that I can give my best shot. I trust myself. When you are not playing, you cannot sit down and relax. I have been working very hard.”
With the Sea Robbers’ technical team led by the astute coach Micho Sredojevic, Chabalala says he was aware why he wasn’t playing, as he couldn’t disrupt the winning formula in defence that has led the team to a runners-up spot in the Premiership.
“We have good coaches... coach Micho (Sredojevic), coach Rhulani (Mokwena) and coach Fadlu Davids. They explained to me why I was not playing.
They said don’t worry, you’ll play, one day is going to be one day,” said the ex-Chippa centre-back. “The team was doing well, finishing as runners-up twice.
My brothers Jele, (Ntsikelelo) Nyauza, Ndengane and (Nyasha) Munetsi (who’s since been sold to France) they’ve been doing very well. So, I was waiting for my chance to come and Saturday I believe it’s my chance.”
Aware of the immense pressure to deliver next season, Pirates are said to be targeting Bidvest Wits and Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo as they look to bolster their defence next season, something that would subsequently mark end of Chabalala’s career with the Buccaneers. However, cutting a diplomatic approach to the speculations, Chabalala says he’s focusing on reviving his career.
“First of all, I don’t know if the team really want him (Hlatshwayo), and I don’t want to involve myself in that. I just want to play football.”@Mihlalibaleka