OPINION: Khune’s experience could help Chiefs
It remains to be seen if Khune is retained for the home DStv Premiership game against AmaZulu on Saturday.
Itumeleng Khune celebrates saving Deano van Rooyen’s penalty during the penalty shootout after the 2022 MTN8 Quarterfinal match between Stellenbosch FC and Kaizer Chiefs held at Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch last Saturday. (Shaun Roy/BackpagePix)
There will come a point, in the not too distant future, where Itumeleng Khune will have to hang up his gloves at Kaizer Chiefs.
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On Sunday, however, in the MTN8 quarterfinal, Khune showed he is not yet ready to be cast into the wilderness, with a match-winning display for Amakhosi against Stellenbosch.
For several seasons now, the former Bafana Bafana captain has struggled for form and fitness, with many speculating that it might finally be time for the 35-year-old to throw in the towel. Khune only made one appearance for Chiefs in the whole of last season, ironically also in an MTN8 quarterfinal, as Chiefs were on the wrong end of a penalty shoot-out defeat to Mamelodi Sundowns.
This time, at a packed Danie Craven Stadium on Sunday, Khune was the shoot-out hero, saving twice to give Chiefs a place in the last four. It remains to be seen if Khune is retained for the home DStv Premiership game against AmaZulu on Saturday. But it might well be that he has done enough to convince the Chiefs coaching staff that he is the man to play between the poles for now.
Khune’s experience could certainly help Chiefs at a time where their defence is looking increasingly error-prone. Siyabonga Ngezana’s high-profile error against Mamelodi Sundowns gifted them a goal, and on Sunday it was Njabulo Ngcobo’s error that let Stellenbosch in for their opener.
Notably, Khune went straight to Ngcobo to encourage him, another sign of leadership, while he also at one point successfully chased pitch invaders back into the stands. That shows the respect Khune still commands with the Chiefs supporters, as befits an Amakhosi legend of his stature.
His delight at the end of the match spoke volumes of Khune’s desperation to continue playing, and perhaps Arthur Zwane, another club legend, is the man to help restore some of his former glories.
On another note, referee Jelly Chavani was saved from an absurd mistake late on in Sunday’s match by what had to be a South African version of VAR. There are no Video Assistant Referees in the Premier Soccer League, of course, so when Chavani pointed to the spot for a non-existent handball by Keagan Dolly in stoppage time, it looked like a riot was distinctly possible at the Danie Craven Stadium.
After television replays clearly showed the ball had not hit Dolly on his hand, however, Chavani miraculously reversed his decision. It’s hard to see how the assistant referee saw the incident, so one can only speculate that someone else had a word in Chavani’s ear. Either way, the correct decision was arrived at to halt a complete injustice.
Chavani was suspended twice last season for poor mistakes, in games involving both Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. He gave Amakhosi a penalty that didn’t exist in a draw with AmaZulu, and wrongly booked a Pirates player for diving when he should have awarded a penalty. One could ask exactly what he is doing still being handed the whistle for high profile matches.