JOHANNESBURG – “We’ve got players capable of doing the same job, if not better,” said Kaizer Chiefs’ assistant coach Shaun Bartlett as he reacted to the suspension of Eric Mathoho, Willard Katsande and Daniel Akpeyi ahead of their Telkom Knockout semi-final against Maritzburg United at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on Sunday (3pm kick-off).
Mihlali Baleka gives an analysis of why Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya, Bernard Parker and Bruce Bvuma should fill in for Mathoho, Katsande and Akpeyi respectively.
With Siyabonga Ngezana having remained with the South Africa Under-23 team at the CAF eight-nation tournament, and set to take part in their third place play-off against Ghana this evening, coach Ernst Middendorp is set to be forced into a tactical change in his back-four.
Ntiya-Ntiya will likely start in his usual left wing-back role, having come off the bench in their last game against Orlando Pirates, while that will push the versatile Yagan Sasman into a central defensive pairing with Daniel Cardoso.
Mathoho’s boots are too big to fill for any youngster, but Ntiya-Ntiya will be looking to deliver his best on Sunday with hopes of inspiring his team.
He has barely put a foot wrong under Middendorp, but he’s yet to prove that he should be on top of the German’s starting XI list every week.
Parker (central attacking midfielder)
Parker is Middendorp’s mouthpiece on the field. The 33-year-old midfielder is ageing like fine wine under the tutelage of the German tactician and his versatility is vital to Chiefs.
With hard man Katsande out for the Maritzburg clash, Parker is set to be one of the cogs in the engine room.
Together with George Maluleka, they are set to play as cover for the defensive contingent, while allowing Lebogang Manyama the freedom of the pitch. Manyama is in fine form having made his return to the national team on Sunday when they faced Sudan in the second round of the Africa Cup of Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Parker will need no motivation to win this game; after all, he’s had to endure the pain of seeing the club fall from the dizzy heights of winning two Premiership titles and two domestic cups in three seasons to a team that’s currently in a four-year trophy drought.
Parker’s future with the club is reaching its twilight as he approaches the last six months of his contract, but he knows that in order to stay at Naturena, management need him to shine on the big stage, and they don’t get much bigger than Sunday as he tries to bring glory back to the Glamour Boys.
Having been the No 1 goalkeeper the last time Chiefs played in a cup semi-final, Bvuma can look at that as inspiration as he stands in for the suspended Akpeyi in Nelspruit.
Back in April, Chiefs defeated Chippa United 4-2 in the last four of the Nedbank Cup. This was Bvuma’s fourth match in the competition, having been the tournament’s No 1 after Akpeyi was cup-tied, while Virgil Vries endured a slump in form due to his butter fingers.
Sure, it is a different script but the 22-year-old shot-stopper will be looking for the same story. After all, it is matches like these where Bvuma will need to show what he learnt from his international experience with Bafana Bafana in the Afcon, especially if the tie goes to a penalty shoot-out.