|Brilliant: Nhlanhla Khuzwayo, Man of the Match|
PERHAPS we should let Willard Katsande, my favourite defensive midfielder, explain how Kaizer Chiefs ended their trophy drought in Durban on Saturday.
I interviewed the 28-year-old Zimbabwean on Soccerballz, my “visual radio show” last week. He was superb. When I reminded him he scored the first and only goal of his AmaKhosi career in a Soweto Derby last March, he was typically modest.
Nominated on the three-man short-list for last season’s PSL player of the year award, Katsande said: “It was nice to score my first goal against Orlando Pirates but my job is to win the ball, balance the defence – and cut down on my yellow cards.”
After Tefu Mashamaite’s goal had defeated the Buccaneers at a packed Moses Mabhida Stadium and secured the R8million MTN8 winners’ cheque on Satuday, Katsande had done exactly what he said he would.
Tireless running, constant harrying, winning possession, making the easy pass. Sure, Itumeleng Khune’s goalkeeping replacement Brilliant Khuzwayo won the Man of the Match award for a string of good saves, but it was Katsande who, once more, provided the platform for Stuart Baxter.
Katsande told Robert Marawa on SuperSport after the trophy lifting celebrations: "First of all we need to thank god for this victory, it means a lot as you can see, we worked very hard.
"We managed stick to coaches game plan, it was a good game, both teams wanted to win.
"Coach Baxter always told me, I'm the engine of the team, I have to win every ball and I have to break down the oppositions attacks, so my job is too balance the team, give cover for my back four.”
As the Orlando Pirates post mortem began across the social networks, there was widespread disappointment with Vladimir Vermecovic, the Serbian coach once in charge at Naturena.
Many times before the game I suggest the only way to ruffle the unbeaten, rock-solid Chiefs defence would be to start with BOTH Lehlohonolo Majoro and Kermit Erasmus. But VV chose to leave Major on the bench once more and in a first half where the AmaKhosi played some serious passing football in the Barcelona (or even Arsenal) manner, Erasmus was an isolated figure up front.
With the ever-improving Tower Mathoho and scorer Mashamaite doubling up on Kermit, Pirates simply failed to create enough chances. Majoro’s arrival was too little too late, as was the sending on of Mpho Makola who was mysteriously dropped after an impressive run of early-season form.
Pirates will, no doubt recover. Though Chiefs are on a ten-match unbeaten run, the Buccaneers have recovered from a dodgy start to move up to third in the PSL. If VV has the courage, Erasmus and Majoro can yet provide the two-pronged fire-power to keep the Sea Robbers in the hunt.
For Chiefs, one slight problem looms. Nhlanhla Khuzwayo, whose “Brilliant” form shouldn’t really have surprised us given his early rave reviews as South Africa’s Under 23 goalkeeper, has now tasted the glory.
He blossomed in front of 64,000 fans and loved every minute. Afterwards he glowed: "Thanks to my family, my girlfriend, my brothers, my friends, everyone who believed in me, Itumeleng Khune, he was like motivating me all the time since I came to Kaizer Chiefs, he is just an inspiration to me.
"Thanks to the technical team, my players, the whole team, the gardeners that clean our fields, everyone who made this a success for us, thank you to everyone, this is for them, this is for them and my family, my kids, most of all, I love them with all my hearts.
"It means everything to me, having to go out onto the field and represent yourself, represent your soul and how you feel inside, it is just an amazing feeling. It's my own backward, we're in KZN, I'm from KZN, it's just an inspiration for me to come play in KZN.
|Forever fearless: Kaizer Chiefs, MTN8 winners|
"This goes out to my mother, my late mother who passed away in 2006, this is why I am wearing number 16. When I was 16 years old she used to say, make me proud. When I was 16 she told me that."
Brilliant words. But any football coach, from your Under 9 boss to your high-powered international manager, will tell you how difficult it is to keep more than one goalkeeper happy in a squad.
In top level football, the substitution of goalkeepers is neither fashionable nor wise. A keeper subbed without injury is a keeper admonished. And the question is: what will Baxter do now that Khuzwayo has starred in a cup final? He also has top youngster Reyaad Pieterse as back up. Whisper it, but could Itumeleng Khune, the nation’s greatest goalkeeper, now become a sellable asset?