Chiefs in slumberland, Hunt at wits end
Coach is concerned by Amakhosi’s stuttering performance and says players need conditioning
Kaizer Chiefs coach Gavin Hunt has said the short‚ two-week preseason is the main reason for some of his veterans creaking at the start of this campaign.
It is no wonder Hunt has almost scratched his scalp off on the touchlines of Chiefs’ stuttering performances‚ including their 0-0 league draw against rookies TS Galaxy at FNB Stadium on Wednesday and last Saturday’s 3-0 MTN8 semifinal first-leg defeat to Orlando Pirates.
In matches‚ Hunt’s brain looks to be ticking over at a furious rate trying to calculate how many puzzles he has to solve to get Chiefs on track in 2020-2021 and how to tackle each one individually.
He is facing many questions. Strikers Khama Billiat and Leonardo Castro seem to be making an effort but are not scoring. Samir Nurković is injured, and the club, in need of some refreshing in key positions, is facing a transfer ban. In addition to all that, Hunt’s veterans are struggling with conditioning.
“We couldn’t do a proper preseason in terms of where you go through the stages of what you want to do‚” Hunt said on Thursday, ahead of Sunday’s second-leg clash against Pirates at FNB Stadium.
“So it’s been a lot of trying to go with a lot of what they had last year. Obviously minus Samir‚ which is a big blow as he was pivotal to the way they played last year.
“And trying to find a way that suits the best we can with what we’ve got available.
“But we need conditioning all over. A lot of these players like ‘Tower’ [Erick Mathoho]‚ Kgotso Moleko‚ Leonardo Castro‚ we need to play them fit.”
In his post-match media conference on Wednesday night Hunt‚ asked about Willard Katsande’s creaky performances and seeming inability to finish a game‚ alluded to the short preseason.
Katsande was substituted for the second time in two starts this season against Galaxy‚ with one other appearance coming off the bench. He is not the only older Chiefs player who is labouring.
“This season we’re going to need everybody. The biggest problem with those [older] players was there was no preseason — it was two weeks,” said Hunt. The players also had the bubble and the four-month lockdown break before that.
“I mention Tower. He has trained now for two days where I haven’t seen him for the last two weeks. I’m going to try and play him fit. I’m going to try and play the Katsandes fit. That’s all I can do.
“Younger players will get fit quicker‚ the older players longer. And that’s maybe what’s happened from the bubble. Because once you stop, when you get to a certain age it can be very difficult to get your legs going again. That’s where you need the full six weeks [pre-season].”
The psychological effect of failing to win the league in the final half-hour last season in their 50th anniversary campaign, as well as missing a chance to end five years without a trophy‚ can be added to Hunt’s list of posers. The commitment of the players has also been questioned.
Hunt’s scalp might well be in for some more punishment as he seeks the answers on Sunday.
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