Whether Kaizer Chiefs have the ambition, drive or heart to go all the way and win the three competitions they are currently taking part in cannot be argued; it is whether Stuart Baxter has enough players at his disposal to see his team conquer both locally and on the continent that needs looking at. Orlando Pirates, who had a far bigger squad last year compared to Amakhosi this season, found it hard to compete successfully in the domestic league and the Champions League. Although they came second in Africa, their local run was somewhat the opposite as they ran out of fresh staff with games coming thick and fast. While we might all agree that it was fatigue that caught up with the Buccaneers; what chance now do Chiefs have with a much smaller squad participating in three competitions; two of those they are defending?
In the past couple of matches, both in the Nedbank Cup and the Absa Premiership, Baxter’s team has had to face changes, some because of the rotation system the coach is using and some because of the injuries and suspensions. Now, despite the suspensions, injuries and the rotation of players, Amakhosi have come to the party and secured wins even when it seemed they would not; many say that is a true champion’s run, but the question is how long till fatigue catches up with Baxter’s men?
The biggest cause of concern for Baxter would be the size of his defensive pool. At centre-back, the Brit rotates Eric Mathoho and the injury-prone Morgan Gould to play alongside Tefu Mashamaite, with the young Lorenzo Gordinho providing the back-up option. The left-back position has been another nightmare for Baxter with Keagan Ritchie gone and Tsepo Masilela picking up injuries on a regular basis. Jimmy Jambo is only just returning from a long term injury so Baxter has had to use the young and inexperienced Simphiwe Mtsweni.
The league leaders have a 28-man squad, and out of those, there are seven young players who have not been tested to the fullest of their abilities. There is Josta Dladla who has not played a game this year due to the banned substance usage scandals surrounding him. And what of Katlego Mphela, has not been registered to play in the CAF Champions League and had not kicked a ball in a while before joining the Soweto Glamour Boys?
On a good day, Chiefs can have up to seven players in the national team, and while that might be good for the squad and Bafana Bafana , it might turn out to be another huge concern if it happens now. Chiefs will, this week, have another challenge to conquer they go into the midweek and weekend matches without the services of influential captain, Itumeleng Khune. Baxter’s side will play against the unpredictable Platinum Stars on Wednesday before they face arch-rivals Orlando Pirates on Saturday at the FNB Stadium.
Amakhosi currently lead the standings in the Absa Premiership and they are through to the second round of the CAF Champions League. On top of that they are in the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup to boot. Only time will tell if the Phefeni Glamour boys will cope with a fixture list that is only just starting to pile up.