No genuine marquee signings
For any PSL team to be successful, they are going to have to overcome Mamelodi Sundowns. Sundowns meanwhile continue to bring in big names – they've recently signed Thabiso Kutumela; last season’s second-highest scorer, a player on the rise in the PSL and a striker who has become a regular for the Bafana Bafana side. Midway through last season they brought in Rushine De Reuck, probably the best South African-born defender aged 25 or under.
Ahead of last season, there was Kermit Erasmus, a Bafana international who had been playing in France, as well as Peter Shalulile, a proven, leading PSL goal scorer over several seasons. None of those players would have come cheap, but the chances of a good return on investment are very strong.
The same cannot be said about Chiefs’ new signings, not exactly a bunch of players who would have broken the bank. With the exception of Njabulo Ngcobo and to a lesser degree, Sibusiso Mabiliso, the new arrivals at Chiefs have not constantly been making headlines for their excellent performances, they’re not on the wanted lists at a bunch of other clubs, and have not made a mark on the international or continental stage.
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Sifiso Hlanti’s days in the Bafana side seem behind him, and so too probably his best football. He does at least offer cover in not one, but two key positions – left-back and centre-back.
Phathutshedzo Nange is a seasoned pro who has done well in the PSL over a number of years, but at 29-years-old, why has he never previously played for a big team in South Africa?
Brandon Petersen didn’t play at all last season as he elected not to join TTM when Wits sold their franchise. Before that, he’d enjoyed one decent season for Ajax Cape Town - in the first division, and otherwise struggled to nail down a regular spot with the Urban Warriors.
Despite a shortage of quality South African-born keepers, he’s barely forced his way into the national team. Is he better as a prospect than Bruce Bvuma, is he better as an established keeper than Daniel Akpeyi and Itumeleng Khune, are questions that arise.
Also signed is Austin Thabani Dube, from Glad Africa Championship side, Richards Bay FC, who arrives as a 28-year-old having never played top-flight football.
Another two men who came in from Swallows (like Hlanti and Ngcobo) are Kgaogelo Sekgota and Given Thibedi, the latter returning from loan.
They are attack-minded players, but their records don’t reflect that with much enthusiasm – Sekgota has scored seven career goals and Thibedi just four.
Of the new men, it’s Mabaliso at left-back and Ngcobo who seem the most likeliest to succeed. As players in demand and in form, and with many years ahead in their careers (especially Mabaliso), the pair would have commanded higher price tags, and, for reasons of cost aside, seem to potentially be genuine Kaizer Chiefs-quality players.
It’s questionable though how much the other new men will add, and if Chiefs are still lacking some real top-class quality in their squad, considering also how many of their players are on the wrong side of 30.
How much did Baxter have?
Nearly all of the new men have been lined up for some time or had agreements in place to sign for Chiefs, long before there was any thought of head coach Stuart Baxter returning to the club.
In fact, several of the new recruits, were clearly Gavin Hunt men – players who had previously worked with the former Kaizer Chiefs coach.
At a time when Chiefs desperately need rejuvenation, the jury remains very much out as to whether the latest bunch of signings will make much of a difference.
And a feeling still remains that Amakhosi’s reluctance to spend big money – to bring in the very cream of South African and African talent, or even to go international, will prove costlier in the long run.