Johannesburg - Siyabonga Ngezana was one of the few players that shone under the dark tenure of Gavin Hunt at the club last term. And such is his knack for game-time, he’s willing to work hard and put himself in the good books of Stuart Baxter.
From being runners-up on the standings a season before, Chiefs incredibly finished eighth last term. And this was a disappointing feat under revered coach Hunt, albeit the fact that he inherited the team amid a one-year transfer ban.
With Hunt having had to rely on youngsters, some became men. Ngezana was one of those, playing numerous roles in the back-four after featuring in 41 matches across all competitions, including the coveted Champions League campaign.
But upon sustaining an injury after Chiefs’ Champions League’s semi-final clash against Wydad Casablanca, Ngezana faced five months on the side-lines – missing the Champions League’s final, pre-season and start of the term.
He duly returned early this month, though, making a cameo in the 3-1 victory over Swallows FC before starting in the 2-0 win over Sekhukhune United last weekend. The time off has given the 24-year-old time to reflect on his career and life.
“It was the first time in my career I was out for so long. I look at it as a blessing in disguise. I learnt a lot and discovered many things in this time. Having to stay indoors was frustrating,” he said on the club’s social media platforms this week.
“I was not used to the situation and not doing anything was challenging. I kept busy by continuing with my studies. I was studying and learning a lot about myself (as well). I was also thinking about what life without football could be like.”
In a normal season, Ngezana wouldn’t have jumped back into the starting line-up having just returned to full training. But thanks to the impact of Covid-19 that brought the club to its knees two weeks ago, there was room for him to start.
Two weeks ago, Amakhosi confirmed that 36 personnel within the club have contracted the virus, forcing the club to close its base and forfeit two matches in a row. But with a makeshift team, the Glamour Boys returned to action on Sunday.
“Playing my first 90 minutes and helping the team keep a clean sheet was exciting. Due to the situation with Covid in the camp, I pushed myself to be ready. I was not 100% but I had to condition my mind not to believe that,” he said.
“I am grateful to be back. I knew that getting back into the team wouldn’t be easy, because the level of competition in the squad is very high. There is someone already occupying the space, so I knew I had to work hard (to start again).”
Ngezana will be eager to keep his position when they visit Royal AM today in Chatsworth, albeit a number of regulars having returned to training last week. This will offer him a chance to showcase that he’s ready to claim his place in defence.”
Amakhosi are second on the standings with 25 points, 15 behind log-leaders Mamelodi Sundowns who’ve played two games more. But they’ll know they can’t underestimate Thwihli Thwahla who mopped the floor with them away in September.
The new kids on the blocks have made noise for all sorts of reasons. But it’s their never-say-die-attitude on the field of play and unity that has been appeasing as they are currently fifth on the table standings, two points behind Chiefs.