Sunday, 31 July 2016

Backed by the Almighty, Komphela claims the early plaudits: but can the Soweto Giants catch Mamelodi Sundowns?

KOMPHELA'S FIRST TROPHY: Kaizer Chiefs celebrate on Saturday
THE gimmicky opening game of the South African season, bizarrely re-christened the Carling Champions Cup, is NOT an accurate guide to the coming PSL season. Let's get that clear from the off.

Much of Saturday's clash was a battle between LAST SEASON’S Soweto Giants. And as expected, Kaizer Chiefs, who finished fifth in the PSL earlier this year, were too good for Orlando Pirates, who finished seventh.

It was only in the second half we started to see some of the new signings but with a myriad of substitutions, not too much can be read in to the AmaKhozi’s much-celebrated 2-0 win.

But there were encouraging signs. For once, the Black Label trophy was not decided on penalties. Tower Mathoho and Itumeleng Khune, who both immediately fly out to the Rio Olympics as over-age players, showed glimpses of real class.

Molomowanadou, the Mouth of the Lion from Venda, scored at one end and saved off the line at the other while Khune, taken off with a shin injury in a friendly for the Olympic-bound Bafana Bafana against Bidvest Wits barely a week before, looked fit - even after that nasty clash with Thamsanqa Gabuza.

Zambian signing Lewis Macha came on with a plethora of new faces late in the game and peeled off to score a near-perfect header after Pirates new signing Bernard Morrison had started threatening a super-sub equaliser.

And let’s be honest: though we joke about the same two sides always getting to the final of this pre-season, vote-for-your-life friendly, it was fun and the FNB Stadium was pleasantly packed.

Thoughts now will move on to Owen da Gama’s side and their opening Olympic clash against hosts Brazil - hopefully Khune and Mathoho will be ready to play on Thursday and a friendly against the local police will be enough to prepare our boys.

The PSL doesn’t kick off until August 23 this season but we have to make some sort of judgement based purely on 90mins of pre-season frolicking.

New Pirates boss Muhsin Etrugral and his former Free State Stars assistant Bradley Carnell were eager to point out it wasn’t as bad as it looked for Pirates fans, alluding to the army of new signings still settling at the club.

They’re right of course - but will Willard Katsande in destroyer mode and Pule Ekstein showing early form, the Buccaneers were overwhelmed in midfield, and there were worrying faults in the Sea Robbers’ defensive line for the full 90 minutes.

As always, Chiefs coach Steve Komphela  was the post-match preacher telling us how the Almighty was required and how important it was to “be a team, not a collection of players we’ve picked up”.

Earlier in the week, Komphela announced he wasn’t entirely happy with his new recruits, suggesting they weren’t his choices but as the celebrations bloomed around him on Saturday evening, he said: “I'll count the number of strikers: Macha, Letlotlo, Katsvairo, Moon, Manqele, Mthembu, eh... The list is going on and on, you must choose one.”

And really, that’s the one thing we can say about the Carling Champions Cup. Neither side got close to champion status last season but if Macha, who has just one cap for Zambia, can carry on like he did on Saturday, Komphela’s greatest headache will be relieved.

Komphela said: "I'm happy for Macha, he's a strong boy. I hope whatever we are working towards, will come out the way we wish and with the Almighty behind us, I'm sure we can make these people proud."

Like every club in South Africa apart from Mamelodi Sundowns and their CBD, finding a striker who can score ten goals in a season is all that is required for the AmaKhosi. And the Buccaneers. Let’s hope Macha or Morrison can fulfil that dream.

With Masandawana through to the African Champions League semi-finals and both SuperSport United and last season's runners-up Bidvest Wits gearing up more quietly the new season will be unpredictable.

Promoted NFD champions Boroka and play-off Highlands Park have made huge numbers of signings while the re-born Cape Town City simply cannot be assessed yet. Chippa United under Dan Malesela have mopped up some quality players from Soweto, Free State Stars are recovering form the abortive Panyaza Lesufi bid.

It's impossible to tell how the PSL will shake down this season. But two things seem likely: Sundowns will be up there again and Ea Lla Koto have a lot of work to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment