“This team is very resilient,” says Stanton ‘Stiga’ Fredericks about his former side, Kaizer Chiefs, ahead of Wednesday’s Absa Premiership fixture against Bidvest Wits.
The league will restart on Tuesday, before Amakhosi’s encounter against the Clever Boys the following day. Fredericks played for both teams, winning, amongst other, the African Cup Winners’ Cup in 2001 during his spell with the Glamour Boys from 2001 to 2004.
Fredericks played for Wits when they were not yet the strong side that started challenging for titles. That only changed after Bidvest became Wits’ sponsor and, eventually, owner, which resulted in the Clever Boys winning the league title in 2017. Things will change as it was recently announced that the club will be sold, renamed TTM and move to play in Limpopo.
“The sale has created a lot of uncertainty in the Wits squad with players uncertain about their future,” the former Chiefs midfielder explains. “There is also the risk that some will start playing individually to try to impress the club’s new owners or even scouts, to the detriment of the team.”
Amakhosi are presently on top of the league table with 48 points from 22 games, with Mamelodi Sundowns in second spot, having 44 points from 21 matches.
Wits lost 3-2 to Sundowns in the Nedbank Cup semi-final on Saturday.
“Chiefs have their destiny in their hands to till the scale to their advantage,” comments Fredericks. “The first two games of the league’s restart will be crucial. If they win those, they will be in a good position.”
‘Stiga’ feels that the Glamour Boys have turned a corner after a dry spell not having won trophies in recent years. “It happens,” he reacts, “all great teams go through hardships at times.
“This side, however, has some real quality players, like Samir Nurković, Lebogang Manyama, Khama Billiat and Leonardo Castro. If you look at Samir, it’s amazing how quickly he adapted to South African football, being from a different country and culture. It’s not easy to settle immediately in another country, but he managed to do just that. That’s class.
“The spark to the team’s success is Willard Katsande. He’s a real leader on the field, which he shows in his actions by chasing every ball. That motivates the other players to emulate him. Look at Nurković, he is always putting the opponent’s defence under pressure.”
A question for all the teams will be how they emerge from this long break of the season due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
Fredericks has some advice: “Chiefs have a very direct style of play, which has given them a lot of positive results. However, with the players probably not yet 100% match fit after the break, they might have to try to keep a bit more possession of the ball. Even if it is just for the first few games, just to get into the groove again.”
Another challenge will be to play in front of an empty Orlando Stadium, which will be Amakhosi’s home for the remaining league fixtures this season.
“It won’t be easy to play in an empty stadium at first,” Fredericks points out, “especially not for Chiefs, which is used to having a very vocal crowd behind them.
“Now, the players will hear every word spoken in the stadium, including the coach and others. I have experienced that once myself during my career – it feels weird and, at first, you struggle to focus on the game.
“However, that’s when it is vital to get into that zone and for the team to impose itself on the opponent. It’s also important for the team to be together, with the players being vocal and talking to each other all the time. They will have to show character and that resilience that has made them such a force this season. If the Chiefs players manage to do this, they will be fine.”
Amakhosi will host the Clever Boys in an Absa Premiership match at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday evening, 12 August (kick-off is at 18:00).
No supporters will be allowed in the stadium. The game will be televised live on the DStv channel, SuperSport 4.