It is no coincidence that Kaizer Chiefs’ return to winning ways in the DStv Premiership and Samir Nurkovic’s return to the Amakhosi side after injury have come in perfect unison.
No one could have predicted that the Serbian’s absence from the start of the season, as he recovered from groin surgery, would have had such a detrimental affect on Amakhosi that they would be struggling just above the relegation zone when he was ready to play again.
However, Nurkovic’s importance to Chiefs was evident even last season, as after his injury Ernst Middendorp’s side let the league title slip into the hands of Mamelodi Sundowns.
Gavin Hunt, with a transfer ban, and without Nurkovic, was certainly left with a difficult deck of cards to shuffle as he began the campaign, but now Chiefs’ main target man is back, and already has a goal and assist to his name in two successive victories.
A poacher’s finish against AmaZulu and a lovely through ball for Happy Mashiane at Cape Town City were just a glimpse of the contribution that Nurkovic has made, manfully holding up play to take the pressure off the Chiefs defence, particularly against City, when the Amakhosi goal was at times under siege.
“It felt fantastic to be back on the field, after surgery and four months of recovery training sessions” said Nurkovic.
“I am happy to be there, to help the guys.
“Like I have said a million times, my job is to be up front and score goals and thank God I scored in my first game after a long time out,” he added.
“The feeling was unbelievable and I am really happy I made a contribution to the victory.”
Chiefs have packed January fixture schedule, even without Champions League football, which only starts again next month, and next face Tshakhuma FC this afternoon, with a chance to climb, at least for 24 hours, to within a point of Soweto rivals Orlando Pirates.
“We don’t have a lot of time to think about our opponent, we have to focus on ourselves and on our play. We have to continue with the good fighting spirit that we showed to our supporters in the last two games and keep our momentum.”
Nurkovic, meanwhile, admitted that it was tough to be out for so long, and also that Chiefs still cannot play in front of their own fans.
“It was a really difficult four months for me, every day you could see supporters and all were wishing me a speedy recovery. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to get back on the field. You can’t rush it. It is not the same without the supporters in the stadium.
“They make a big difference, they are always our 12th player on the field. It is harder without them, but our hard work is all for them.”