With midfielder Siphelele Ntshangase and striker Leonardo Castro still evidently lacking match fitness, Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela has again spoken about the significant role they could play for Amakhosi in the Premiership title run-in.
The duo arrived from Baroka FC and Mamelodi Sundowns, respectively, during last month’s transfer window, Komphela making it clear almost immediately that it would be a while before they understand how he wants to play following months of inactivity at their previous clubs.
He finally handed them full debuts in the 3-0 win over Golden Arrows on Sunday, a result which sent Chiefs flying into the last 16 of the Nedbank Cup. But neither Ntshangase or Castro finished the match.
“I think to be honest, they gave a good account of them-selves,” said Komphela when asked how long before the two players would make a meaningful contribution.
“We could see the amount of work Castro did, and we could see the number of attempts Ntshangase was trying. Castro spent a lot of time not playing at his previous club and he is only now starting to get there - match fitness is something very difficult, but you have to build players towards that.
“The same with Ntshangase, he had not been playing where he was.”
Castro missed the first two matches of his Chiefs career due to not having his work permit ready in time and having to apply for a new one following his move from Chloorkop to Naturena.
But he scored on debut as he came off the bench away at Baroka FC to grab the winning goal in a 2-1 victory.
Ntshangase also made all his appearances coming off the bench in the previous four matches for Chiefs prior to being named in the starting line-up on Sunday.
“We knew the possibilities of them finishing those matches were very slim, but we did have a plan should they not go the distance,” said Komphela.
It is likely they will return to the bench again on Saturday against Cape Town City in a league match that will have a huge bearing on the title charge in these final few weeks.
But Castro does have a better chance of retaining his place in the first eleven should fellow forwards Dumisani Zuma and Gustavo Paez not recover from injuries that sidelined them in the cup tie over the weekend.
“When you bring them on as subs, you are obviously saying the opponent might have depleted their energy, when they come in they will cope and show their quality and finish the match,” Komphela argued.
“Those are processes you have to manage as a coach. And based on your training experiences and feedback from the player - because we do engage by asking them how many minutes they can give you - you make the call.”
Chiefs, who are in fourth place on the log table and trail leaders Mamelodi Sundowns by seven points, now have 10 games remaining in which to try and challenge the Brazilians for the championship.
Ntshangase and Castro were specifically signed to aid them in this hot pursuit.
“I am hoping very soon they will play completely from zero minutes to 95 without any hiccups. But that it will happen instantly, its not possible,” the coach said.