Khama Billiat during the Kaizer Chiefs media open day at Naturena. Picture: LEE WARREN/GALLO IMAGES
Khama Billiat during the Kaizer Chiefs media open day at Naturena. Picture: LEE WARREN/GALLO IMAGES

Ernst Middendorp was vague when asked about the absence of Khama Billiat from Kaizer Chiefs’ starting XI or the bench for their opening match of the Premiership against Highlands Park last weekend.

Middendorp’s reply was the player was “not 100%”. 

The reports that Billiat has approached Mamelodi Sundowns for a return to the club after just a year at Chiefs have fuelled speculation there might have been ulterior motives for Billiat’s absence from the line-up at Makhulong Stadium.

Middendorp’s explanation was that‚ with Chiefs not having more players back from injury after a strong pre-season‚ and new signings‚ competition for places is tougher‚ and if players are not at a 100% level‚ Amakhosi do not have to force the matter fielding them.

“Everybody is available for selection. Sometimes players will have to wait for some reason‚” Middendorp said at Amakhosi’s Naturena headquarters on Wednesday of Chiefs’ squad fitness status‚ where just a few niggles and returns to from long-term absence are being managed.

“There are reasons for a player to wait a little longer. And sometimes you make a decision.”

Middendorp was asked if that includes Billiat: “Ja‚ ja‚ of course. Khama is the same level as everybody. We have to make a decision about how far he is towards a 100% level. And the difference now is probably that we have some options with [new signings] Lazarous Kambole‚ with Samir Nurkovic.

“There is competition. And that’s good. I think it’s good for everybody who is not at a 100% level. We probably could have given him and Leonardo [Castro] an injection on the weekend‚ and they could have played. But we don’t have to do this.”