It’s been a pretty dreadful start to the season for Kaizer Chiefs and their new head coach Gavin Hunt, with goals harder to come by than a flattering photo of the orange mess that is Donald Trump.
It could have been worse, on Wednesday night, in fact, had Wayde Lekay’s penalty not struck the post for TS Galaxy, as Amakhosi could only play out an insipid DStv goalless draw with Dan Malesela’s top-flight newbies.
Chiefs have been somewhat crippled by a Fifa transfer ban, which they failed to successfully appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, meaning Hunt has to stick with what Ernst Middendorp left behind, for the whole of the 2020/21 season.
This is in stark contrast to Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, who have hoovered up a busload of talent, benefitting particularly from other clubs’ struggles in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bidvest Wits are the prime example of this, one of the top teams in the country disappearing from view, with the Buccaneers and Masandawana absorbing most of their abundant talent.
How Hunt must have looked on jealously as his former charges Thulani Hlatshwayo, Thabang Monare, Deon Hotto and Terrence Dzvukumanja, helped inspire Pirates to a 3-0 hammering of Chiefs in the MTN8 semifinal first leg on Saturday. That is not to mention the Buccanners’ Ben Motshwari and Vincent Pule, both of who came to the fore at Wits under Hunt’s guidance.
Against Sundowns, in another 3-0 defeat, it was Kermit Erasmus and Peter Shalulile, prime new signings, albeit not from Wits, who netted the opening two goals. In this sense, there has to be sympathy with Hunt, who has not been able to mould the Chiefs squad in his own image.
The Amakhosi head coach has also been without Chiefs’ star man up front from last season, Samir Nurkovic, who continues to recover after a groin operation.
And yet there is still enough attacking talent in this Chiefs squad to make the fact that their only goals this season have come from a left back – Yagan Sasman – and an own goal against Chippa United, acutely embarrassing.
Khama Billiat has shown glimpses of his undoubted talent but still lacks the sharpness at Chiefs that made him so deadly at Sundowns. Leonardo Castro is battling gamely but has also been unable to reproduce his Masandawana form, while Lebo Manyama seems wasted on the wing.
There are some positives Chiefs can take defensively, with two clean sheets in their last three matches. Daniel Akpeyi, right now, is a more assured presence in goal than Itumeleng Khune, while the return of Erick Mathoho from injury against TS Galaxy was a definite plus point.
Then again, Chiefs have problems at full back, with Hunt’s desire to bring in Sifiso Hlanti a clear indicator that Philani Zulu, Sasman, and Siphosakhe Ntiya-Ntiya are not his answer to the left back situation.
At right back, meanwhile, Kgotso Moleko clumsily hauled down Lindokuhle Mbatha to concede the penalty on Wednesday, when Akpeyi was covering anyway, and Amakhosi could badly do with Reeve Frosler back from injury as soon as possible.
Whoever plays on Sunday, frankly, it is impossible to see Chiefs hauling back a three-goal deficit to Pirates. More likely is another defeat, to leave Hunt with even more to ponder over the November international break.