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Nkosingiphile Ngcobo: Has he proved Kaizer Chiefs coach Baxter wrong?

6:34 PM MYT 27/12/2021
Nkosingiphile Ngcobo of Kaizer Chiefs challenges Fortune Makaringe of Orlando Pirates
When Amakhosi’s transfer ban ended, they invested heavily in central midfield, with Cole Alexander and Phathutshedzo Nange among the new arrivals

Nkosingiphile Ngcobo’s scintillating form for Kaizer Chiefs over the past couple of weeks begs the question as to why he hasn’t played more this season.

Another new signing, Njabulo Ngcobo, won the PSL Defender of the Season award with Swallows FC last season, but has also been used by Amakhosi coach Stuart Baxter in the centre of the park.

Other options apart from Phathutshedzo Nange and Cole Alexander include Kearyn Baccus and Anthony Agay, while Bernard Parker, a striker by trade, also frequently plays in the engine room.

Baxter less trusting of youth?

With so many options, two of Chiefs’ best players under previous coach, Gavin Hunt – Nkosingiphile Ngcobo and Njabulo Blom - have missed out.

Blom has at least been playing, but as a right-back – partly due to Amakhosi’s shortage of options in that spot.

Last season under Hunt, Ngcobo scored four goals and had one assist in 25 league matches, participated in 40 games overall, and also impressed in the Caf Champions League, where he played 11 games.

Ngcobo, however, has had to watch on with frustration from the sidelines for most of the current campaign and has accumulated a total of only 390 minutes in the league.

Only once has he completed an entire 90 minutes – on December 12 – and in that match against Sekhukhune United, Ngcobo proved the match-winner with a goal and assist in a 2-0 win.

He started in the next game, a 1-0 loss to Royal AM, before being substituted after 75 minutes. Then for the final fixture of the year, against Maritzburg United, the 22-year-old was once again relegated to the bench.

Within seven minutes of coming on, he once more made his point with a superbly-taken goal, a goal Chiefs needed to squash Maritzburg’s attempted comeback.

It was a sublime, cool finish, and showcased the youngster’s measured left-foot and highlighted the goal-scoring prowess which was increasingly on display under Hunt.

His eye for the killer pass is equally impressive and when Ngcobo is on the field, he’s generally buzzing, making things happen in attack for his side and also putting the opposition on the back foot.

Skillful and with a contagious energy, Chiefs are arguably a better side when Ngcobo is in the mix.

Baxter, however, has generally opted for more solid, physical, defensive-minded players, which suggests an element of a conservative approach.

Ironically, Baxter’s seeming reluctance to trust in youth has come at a time when we have a national team coach, Hugo Broos, who is all about giving youth a chance.

But because of Ngcobo’s lack of game-time at club level, he wasn’t selected for the World Cup qualifiers despite having broken into the Bafana squad last season.

It has been to Ngcobo’s credit that when he finally was given a chance by Baxter, he’s hit the ground running and has shown no signs of resentment or of a lack of sharpness.

Hopefully, for the national team’s sake as well as Kaizer Chiefs, this exciting young midfielder will continue where he left off against Maritzburg when the league gets underway in February.

It also won’t be surprising to see him selected by the fans for the DStv Compact Cup.