JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs players have been so good at shielding coach Steve Komphela in press conferences and becoming his own personal escorts to guide him off the pitch after yet another poor result.
This week - in what has been labelled a defining week for the coach as far as his future at the club is concerned - they get another opportunity to let their feet do the talking when they face Mamelodi Sundowns on Tuesday and Soweto rivals Orlando Pirates four days later.
We’ve singled out the following players as the ones that need to step up the most.
The 27-year-old former Bloemfontein Celtic centreback has no serious challenger for his position despite, by his own admission, being off-form. So he will continue to feature for Amakhosi, especially now that the club has been hit by several injuries in defence. Mathoho is among the players who haven’t quite stepped up in this obvious crisis that has been denied by coach and management alike. Some players have spoken out, however, and taken responsibility for not being able to win anything since Komphela arrived at the start of the 2015-16 season. The coach will rely on Mathoho’s experience to marshal a defence missing key players like Tsepo Masilela, Ramahlwe Mphahlele and Lorenzo Gordinho.
So far it seems it’s really just the hype - the fact that Ekstein reminds many of the great Donald ‘Ace’ Khuse, who shared a dressing room with Komphela while they were Chiefs players in the 90s. This creative midfielder has hardly stepped up and maybe this is the right time to reward the coach’s faith in him. Komphela has been sidelining an effective Joseph Molangoane since the start of the season in favour of Ekstein and it’s been a puzzling move, more so because his preferred choice doesn’t quite offer the attacking threat Molangoane does. A crowd favourite as well, Ekstein should do more than invite whistles and cheers when he’s on the ball.
Is he finished? With regular striker Gustavo Paez injured and likely to miss at least four games, there are questions whether Parker is the right man to step in. He’s looked a shade of the goal poacher he once was whenever he has come off the bench to try and give Chiefs a different dimension. Komphela might be tempted to give him a run instead of young Dumisani Zuma upfront, although a few would argue that the latter is maybe a more reliable bet for goals than Parker.
It’s no secret that Chiefs haven’t bought well, but those that have been brought in must step up somehow. Philani Zulu is starting to settle, having taken over the leftback role following injuries to Masilela and Sibusiso Khumalo. Bhongolwethu Jayiya still isn’t convincing, and this week might be a true test of his ability and whether he really is Chiefs material. And then there’s Zuma, a lively attacker with impressive speed, who hasn’t yet been given enough opportunities. Injures and worrying form at the club means Komphela must finally be brave enough and try something new - like he has with giving young players a chance this season.