The Absa Premiership title might be slipping away from the Amakhosi this season following Saturday night’s 2-2 draw with SuperSport United.
But the one thing ‘Shabba’ has proved in this campaign is that he’s not quite done dazzling us just yet.
Chiefs needed to respond against Matsatsantsa a Pitori following their elimination from the Nedbank Cup by the same team, and a 3-2 defeat that was incredibly deflating to their championship hopes when they were away to
And Tshabalala, wearing the captain’s armband for the second time this week in Itumeleng Khune’s absence, led the way.
It’s rare that you find a player reaching the 300-game milestone at the same club in this country – when Lucky Lekgwathi did it at Orlando Pirates, he was already being sidelined to make way for the “future”, even though he still had the legs.
Tshabalala, 32, has shown – on the evidence of the previous and current season, and particularly this week – that he still has more mileage in him.
Here in Nelspruit, where Chiefs desperately needed to win to try and keep up with log-leaders Mamelodi Sundowns,
The first was a replica of one of the two goals scored by Chiefs in the loss to City earlier this week as he spotted goalkeeper Reyaad Pieterse off his line and cleverly went for placement instead of power to break the deadlock.
And then Mandla Masango, a Chiefs old boy, provided an equally stunning goal to draw SuperSport level, twisting defender Mulomowandau Mathoho and striking a finessed shot that beat the outstretched arms of young Bruce Bvuma between the sticks.
Amakhosi resisted the temptation to drop their heads, instead again taking the game to their title rivals to get a second – courtesy of Tshabalala, who took his time when receiving a low cross from Ramahlwe Mphahlele to curl the ball past Pieterse for the second time.
Madness. That’s how your mark your 300th appearance for a club you’ve served with such dignity and professionalism.
Pity he had to be taken off shortly before the hour mark due to a thigh strain, but the applause from the crowd spoke volumes.
Tshabalala, who was replaced by Gustavo Paez, thought he’d probably done enough by then to ensure Chiefs cut the lead at the summit to just two points, although they have played two more games than Sundowns, who play Wits on Monday in another potential title decider.
But SuperSport struck late and spoiled the party with a last-gasp equaliser that came from the foot of substitute Aubrey Modiba, but was helped in by Chiefs defender Tsepo Masilela.
Steve Komphela: It's two points lost, we needed three, but we will keep on going on. We are fine with it #AbsaPrem— IOL Sport (@IOLsport) April 29, 2017
The result was not what either side wanted – it’s not going to help their cause as far as the championship race is concerned.
In fact, perhaps it’s an outcome that proved that Sundowns, City and even Wits, who blow hot and cold now and again, are more deserving champions this season.