It’s not only in terms of results where Kaizer Chiefs look a different team in the current season, but also in playing personnel.
Injury ravaged the Soweto giants throughout the 2018/19 campaign, where they limped to a ninth-place finish, with their trophyless run going past four years.
Central to the team’s woes, was the absence of veteran goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury halfway through the season.
With the 32-year-old ruled out, Chiefs were left with Virgil Vries and the inexperienced Bruce Bvuma as first-team options, before the arrival of Nigerian international Daniel Akpeyi from Chippa United in January.
Khune shadow looms over Akpeyi
Akpeyi has been used sporadically since making the move to Naturena, and is now enjoying an extended run in the starting line-up, just as Khune is expected back from injury.
The 33-year-old was the hero in the only match that failed to yield victory for Amakhosi so far this season – a 1-1 draw against Supersport United, where he saved a last-gasp penalty to rescue a point for his club.
However, he has been operating amidst deafening calls from the fans for Khune, who could return when the club resume their league campaign in the middle of September.
Coach Ernst Middendorp has urged the supporters to throw their weight behind Akpeyi, and revealed he is relishing the prospect of having two of Africa’s best shot-stoppers at his disposal.
“Daniel Akpeyi needs the support just like any other player,” Middendorp told the club’s website.
“We will continue working with Itumeleng Khune to get him ready. It is just not right to have the supporters shouting Khune’s name after a few minutes of the game. For us it is healthy and a pleasure to have SA and Nigeria’s number one goalkeepers in our squad.”
Healthy competition at Kaizer Chiefs
Akpeyi recently returned from Afcon duty, where he helped Nigeria to a third-place finish, beating South Africa on the way to the semis.
Kaizer Chiefs had another representative between the posts in the continental showpiece in Bvuma, who was an unused Bafana squad member.
With Khune set to return, the once problematic goalkeeping department is bound to be considerably strengthened.
Chiefs return to action on 14 September, when they will be hosting Polokwane City at FNB Stadium.
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