Where is Khama Billiat? Chiefs coach Middendorp says he's 'not 100 percent'
Ernst Middendorp was vague when asked about the absence of Khama Billiat from even Kaizer Chiefs’ bench in their 3-2 opening Absa Premiership win against Highlands Park on Saturday‚ saying only the playmaker was “not 100 percent”.
The reports that Billiat has approached Mamelodi Sundowns for a return to his club after just a year at Chiefs have fueled speculation that there might have been ulterior motives for Billiat’s absence from the line-up at Makhulong Stadium.
Middendorp’s explanation was that‚ with Chiefs not having more players back from injury after a strong preseason‚ and new signings‚ competition for places is tougher‚ and if players are not at a 100 percent level‚ Amakhosi do not have to force the matter fielding them.
“Everybody is available for selection.
"Sometimes players will have to wait for some reason‚” Middendorp said at AmaKhosi's Naturena headquarters on Wednesday of Chiefs’ squad fitness status‚ where just a few niggles and returns to from long-term absence are being managed.
“There are reasons for a player to wait a little longer. And sometimes you make a decision.”
Middendorp was asked if that includes Billiat: “Ja‚ ja‚ of course. Khama is the same level as each and everybody.
“We have to make a decision about how far he is fit‚ how far he is towards a 100 percent level.
“And the difference now is probably that we have some options with [new signings] Lazarous Kambole‚ with Samir Nurkovic.
“There is competition. And that’s good. I think it’s good for everybody who is not at a 100 percent level.
“And ja‚ we probably could have given him and Leonardo [Castro] an injection on the weekend‚ and they could have played.
“But we don’t have to do this.”
Chiefs had a good start‚ considering how teams can struggle against strong-running Highlands at their compact Makhulong stronghold.
Lebogang Manyama gave Amakhosi a fifth-minute lead before Rodney Ramagalela (22nd) and Peter Shalulile (48th) swung the momentum back to Highlands.
A second goal from Manyama (50th) and deflected strike by Mulomowandau Mathoho (83rd) earned Chiefs a hard-fought victory.