Ernst Middendorp says Kaizer Chiefs playmaker Khama Billiat was handed to the club’s medical staff in late December with the message not to give him back to the first team until he was capable of “100% peak performance”.
Billiat‚ out of action for Premiership leaders Chiefs since being replaced in the 80th minute of their 1-1 draw against Maritzburg United on December 22‚ returned to full training last week.
Chiefs have not disclosed any actual injury to the player‚ with the diagnosis passed on by Middendorp from the medical staff just before the Christmas break being that Billiat had simply played too many matches and was to be given a three-week break.
This was to avoid a repetition of continual niggling injuries affecting the playmaker‚ who played in the Cosafa Cup and Africa Cup of Nations for Zimbabwe in the 2019-2020 off-season‚ as Middendorp complained of continued call-ups for a player he said was jaded.
Middendorp was asked to explain why Billiat, one of the stars of the 2019 Nations Cup’s group stages in Egypt in June, has been out for close to six weeks rather than three.
“After December 22 we had seen he couldn’t sprint to 100%,” said the Chiefs coach.
“We have this PlayerTek Catapult GPS data which tells you exactly the top speed. Khama’s was normally close to 10 to 9.9 or 9.8. And you could see in a game‚ or in training sessions‚ a maximum 9.2 or 9.1.
“It doesn’t matter even if it takes six or seven weeks. I wanted him capable of 100% speed‚ and wanted to see it on the GPS data. And that is what we see in the moment.
“We gave him more or less to the medical department. And from them‚ about eight days ago it was recommended that now he is able to do so [maximum performance].”
Billiat will be in Chiefs’ match-day squad for their Nedbank Cup last-32 match against KwaZulu-Natal GladAfrica Championship outfit Royal Eagles at FNB Stadium in Joburg on Saturday.
After such a long absence‚ he is unlikely to start‚ but a Cup game against first-division campaigners would seem an ideal time for a reintroduction to competitive football from the bench.