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Bafana Takes Its Toll…

We’re just over a month into the new PSL season, and though only three league games have been played, the national team’s captain, Itumeleng Khune, will take part in his eighth game in the space of one month, later this week.

To put that into perspective, last season’s Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi, played eight games in one month just once last season, in January, and all of those came playing for his club, under his domestic coach, and not for Argentina.

Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo also played eight games in one month once, between February and March, but that was when his side were taking part in  La Liga, the Uefa Champions League, the Copa del Rey and he played one game for Portugal.

Chiefs have not had the best start to their title defence this season, winning, drawing and losing their first three games of their campaign while also falling to a 1-0 defeat against rivals Orlando Pirates in the first leg semi-finals of the MTN8.

Could it be said that Bafana’s games, of which Wednesday’s will be the fourth, have taken their toll on Stuart Baxter’s side, especially due to the fact that there are six Chiefs players, half of Baxter’s starting XI, in the current squad and have been the same in the previous squads.

I know what some of you are going to say… There are six Pirates players in the current Bafana side and they’ve been travelling all over Africa as part of their CAF Champions League campaign.

However, there’s one big difference. The Pirates players have played their games together, with the same coach, who’s preaching the same gospel. Meanwhile the Chiefs players are flitting back and forth between Baxter and Gordon Igesund where they are no doubt told different things and told to play different tactics.

Pirates have done the country proud in their exploits in Africa and are a credit to South Africa at present, but they are at a distinct advantage because they are dealing with the same teammates and same coach every day, Chiefs’ internationals aren’t.

Take the Soweto derby for instance. 10 days before that game Chiefs’ Bafana players took part in a friendly against Nigeria, playing under a different coach, and then three days later played against Burkina Faso. This means that Baxter had just a few short days after those friendlies to get his team back into his way of working and prepare them for the derby.

During the same period, Pirates played one game, in South Africa, and spent the whole time working with Roger de Sa and their usual teammates, giving them an extended amount of time to prepare for both Zamalek and Chiefs. They went on to win both games, putting in an incredible performance against the Egyptians. Something that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

I’ve mentioned in articles on our site that some of the Amakhosi players are suffering with fatigue, although it is not just the amount of games that they are playing that could be the problem, but other factors too.

The constant changing of coaches means that they’re having to adapt and change every other week, and when they do get back to Naturena, they need a day or two to recover and get back into Baxter’s way of thinking. Pirates don’t have that issue.

World Cup qualifiers are a different kettle of fish, the best team available needs to be called up in order to win games, regardless of who they play for. However, during friendlies others need to be given a chance. Players that turn out for Bloemfontein Celtic and SuperSport United need to be given real opportunities in the national team and your Anele Ngcongcas and Dean Furmans don’t need to be hauled to Africa for the sake of one friendly against the second-string team of an African opponent.

I’m not saying that this is a Chiefs or Pirates issue, but when so many of the national team players come from those two teams, it’s hard to make it otherwise. All I’m saying is that, at present, Chiefs have a large chunk of their squad leaving every other week while the other teams keep their units on the same page. Is it any surprise that the Glamour Boys haven’t come out all guns blazing?


Yours in football, Joe

Soccer-Laduma journalist
Follow Joe on Twitter: @YesWeCrann

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