Durban – Kaizer Chiefs have shown strong intent to kick-start a new era this off-season. The Amakhosi have released more than 10 players or 30% of their squad from last season while bringing in eight exciting new players.
There is no doubt that the changes will restore hope among the Soweto giants’ faithful but the Glamour Boys cannot expect instant results from the new signings and team.
Realistically, good results in football hardly come overnight and it is also not a 100% certainty that the players will gel well together instantly.
There have been numerous times in the past where football clubs had false new dawns after attempting to kick-start new eras. Some of Chiefs’ new signings will not adjust to life at the club and to Arthur Zwane’s tactics.
The new head coach has spoken passionately about the need for players who understand the culture and what it takes to put on the black and gold jersey. This, itself, is a doctrine that the new signings will need to adapt to as they deal with the weekly pressure from the fans.
While not the flashiest of players, one of the most exciting signings made by Chiefs was Siyethemba Sithebe. The one thing that has been lacking from the Amakhosi in recent seasons is a hardworking midfield “engine” in the calibre of what Reneilwe Letsholonyane used to do for them in years gone by or what N’Golo Kante does for France.
Our new soldiers reported for duty today. We officially welcome Siyethemba Sithebe to the Amakhosi Family after signing a 2 year contract. We look forward to working with you Khosi!#WelcomeSithebe #Amakhosi4Life pic.twitter.com/OieLhzNEVX
— Kaizer Chiefs (@KaizerChiefs) June 20, 2022
At 29-years-old, Sithebe has the qualities and experience required to fulfil the role. The former AmaZulu man is at the peak of his powers and while his shooting can do with a bit of improvement, he is good at winning balls in the middle of the park.
Chiefs were a bit too over-reliant on Khama Billiat and Keagan Dolly to produce the goods up front last season and in Ashley du Preez, they now have a player who can compete with and provide support to the established duo.
Du Preez starred for Stellenbosch last season as Stellies surpassed expectations under Steve Barker. He notably scored a brace as Stellies humbled Sundowns 3-0 in May. The 24-year-old Du Preez will add some spice in that attack as he still has a hunger to win trophies.
In Dillon Solomons, Chiefs now have a modern defensive player who is also adept at launching attacks. If not for the presence of the 26-yearold, Chiefs’ Soweto rivals Swallows FC would have been relegated last season.
Solomons is adept at winning the ball deep before launching marauding runs at the death to create chances. He is also calm and collected and could be an option to take penalties for Chiefs in pressure situations.
Our new soldiers reported for duty today. We officially welcome Zitha Kwinika to the Amakhosi Family on a 3 year deal. We look forward to working with you Khosi!#WelcomeKwinika #Amakhosi4Life pic.twitter.com/z1c0HWWsuq
— Kaizer Chiefs (@KaizerChiefs) June 20, 2022
Considering Eric Mathoho’s often erratic defending from last season which earned him comparisons to Manchester United’s Harry Maguire, Zitha Kwinika is another welcome addition to the Chiefs side.
Like Du Preez, Kwinika was also a star performer for Stellies last season. He boasts good game reading ability and positional awareness and at 28-years-old, is at the prime of his powers.
Mathoho will now have to seriously up his game or could find himself moving down the pecking order.
Attacking midfielder Yusuf Maart joins on the back of some impressive displays for Sekhukhune United last season which saw him establish himself as a Bafana Bafana player under Hugo Broos.
Maart still has flaws in his game and was partly at fault for the second goal in Bafana’s 2-1 defeat to Morocco in Afcon 2023 qualifying during the last international break.
However, this move could allow him to take his game to the next level. He will be in a high pressure environment competing with the likes of Sithebe, Lehlohonolo Matlou and Phathutshedzo Nange for first team action.
For the young trio, Matlou, Kamohelo Mahlatsi and Mduduzi Shabalala in particular, next season will be more about learning than delivering match-winning performances from the offset.
A left-footed midfield player, Mahlatsi is adept in the box to box or holding midfield role. He was a top performer for Swallows last season which would have aided his game. Had the Dube Birds attack fired last season, Matlou’s contributions to the team would have been more visible.
Mahlatsi, who also joins from Swallows, will be good cover and an understudy to Sithebe in attacking midfield. On paper, Mahlatsi may have only scored one goal and contributed one assist to the Dube Birds cause in the league last season but he is capable of becoming an important player for Amakhosi.
The 18-year-old Shabalala earned a promotion from the youth ranks to the Chiefs first team on the back of scoring 13 goals in the Diski Challenge which is the precursor to Premiership football.
It won’t be a bad idea for Chiefs to send him out on loan in order to gain more experience but if Zwane and co have full confidence in him, they could opt to use him in the first team straight away which will be a great show of faith in youth.