Kaizer Chiefs captain Itumeleng Khune has defended the constant changes to the club’s centreback partnerships made by coach Giovanni Solinas.
In the post-mortems of Chiefs’ 2-1 Premiership Soweto derby defeat against Orlando Pirates on Saturday, two questionable decisions by Solinas have raised eyebrows.
One was to seemingly rush Leonardo Castro back at centreforward‚ who started the game brightly but quickly faded.
Another was to field Mario Booysen ahead of far more ex p e r ie nce d and more reliable Daniel Cardoso at centreback next to Siyabonga Ngezana.
Chiefs’ loss against Pirates was their fourth match without a win in normal time. In those games‚ Solinas has chopped and changed centreback partnerships alarmingly‚ not playing the same two in succession.
He retained Cardoso and Ngezana from a 2-0 win against AmaZulu for a 0-0 draw against Highlands Park; had Ngezana and Booysen in a 1-0 defeat against Polokwane City‚ Booysen and Mulomowandau Mathoho in the Telkom Knockout penalties win against Black Leopards‚ then Booysen and Ngezana against Pirates.
Goalkeeper Khune was asked about playing behind such a bewildering procession of centreback partnerships.
“To be quite honest there’s no difference whoever is playing in front of me. The coach believes in all the players — we believe in all of us‚” he replied.
“And whoever is given the chance to play‚ we keep working on those combinations at training and even in matches. The coach has asked if any of us has not had a chance to play. We all have played a few matches.
“Because he’s got a big squad with a lot of players, so he’s trying to manage it by giving everyone a run in the team.
“That’s his philosophy. And we are here to support him as players. Whenever we are called upon to do duty we have to play, no matter who is playing alongside me or in front of me.
“I’m a goalkeeper‚ I’m a leader of the team. I have to make sure I manage my back four and communicate with them. But I cannot blame the level of communication. I mean‚ it was too loud. Yes‚ I’ve tried to communicate with my backs for using my ‘whistle’ [voice]‚ which is loud enough. But in this game every supporter has stolen it away from me. But like I said‚ the first goal we conceded was just a lack of concentration. And we didn’t stick to the positioning that we were assigned to.
“It’s something that we need to go back to, look at it in the video‚ rectify it, move forward.”
When Khune was later in the post-derby media conference asked again about the Ngezana/Booysen combination‚ Solinas became irritated.
He said: “Guys‚ sorry‚ but this is the second question about the central defenders. Guys‚ no‚ listen to me. I don’t change my defenders with Pirates defenders or [Mamelodi] Sundowns defenders. I keep my defenders.”
Solinas appeared to be saying that he did not need to sign defenders from other teams.
“I don’t know. It was not a poor performance from our defenders [against Pirates].
“We have good defenders. I am not concerned about this. Kaizer Chiefs have the best defenders in SA. This is my opinion. I respect your opinion.
“I am the coach‚ I will not change my defenders with those of Pirates or Sundowns. I will keep my defenders.”