Shaba back for Chiefs

2010-11-04 11:41

Defending champions Kaizer Chiefs were given a major boost on Thursday when their star winger Siphiwe “Shaba” Tshabalala was declared fit for Saturday’s Telkom Knockout quarterfinal clash against Free State Stars at the Rand Stadium.

The flying left winger was injured while helping Bafana Bafana secure a hard fought 0-0 draw against Sierra Leone in Freetown last month. He injured his hip in that bruising African Nations Cup qualifier and has not played for the past four weeks.

A smiling head coach Vladimir Vermezovic confirmed on Thursday that Shaba was now available.

“Tshabalala is ready and in the squad and could play against Stars,” he said.

Vermezovic is wary of the threat posed by Stars and by his friend Steve Komphela, who has recently rejoined the Bethlehem-based PSL outfit as head coach.

“Steve is an interesting guy, and so are his team. They have improved since he has been in charge and are a strong side,” said the Serbian-born Vermezovic.

While cup competition was important to Chiefs, his priority was winning the league, he said. It was vital for Chiefs to successfully defend the Knockout.

“Every game is vital. I take it one step at a time. In other words, our next game (Stars) is our most important. We are the Knockout champions. We want to retain the cup, but I realise we have a difficult task ahead. But, we are ready.”

Chiefs’ skipper Jimmy Tau said the players’ confidence was boosted after the 10-man Chiefs beat defending Absa Premiership champions SuperSport United 2-0 in Atteridgeville over the weekend.

“That was a big win against United, but we cannot afford to disregard Stars,” Tau warned.

“They were not expected to get past Ajax Cape Town in the last round, but they caused a big upset beating Ajax in Cape Town. That tells us this will be no walk in the park.”

Tau said that while beating SuperSport was a big morale-booster for the players and kept Chiefs’ unbeaten record intact, there was a long way to go.

“We must keep our feet firmly on the ground. We need to stay focused and not allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security. Stars have some decent quality players who we expect to rise to the occasion.”

Tau welcomed Tshabalala back.

“It’s great news having Shaba fit again. We missed him because be brings a lot of experience to the team.”

Although Chiefs oozed confidence on Thursday, they practiced taking penalty kicks after their training session at their Naturena base just in case Stars prove to be a tough nut to crack and take the game to a penalty shootout.

Vermezovic defended his striker Kaizer Motaung Jr., who was sent off in the 56th minute against SuperSport, and said there was no discipline problem with him or any of his players.

“This is our first red card of the season. There is no discipline problem here.

“I am not supporting him because he is the chairman’s son, but because tempers and heart rates rise in a game. I supported Itumeleng Khune when he had the same problem last season. It is nothing to worry about. It is part of the game.”

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