Samir Nurkovic is the inspirational presence that Kaizer Chefs have been searching for all season to provide a symbol of stability in the midst of chaos.
CAPE TOWN – Samir Nurkovic is a giant of a man. His towering figure stands at 1.87m and tips the scale at 80kg.
For Kaizer Chiefs he is the equivalent of Hercules. And much like the mythical Roman god he is the inspirational presence that Amakhosi have been searching for all season to provide a symbol of stability in the midst of the chaos that has engulfed the beleaguered Soweto giants this season.
Unfortunately for Cape Town City, ahead of their much-anticipated clash at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, the imposing Serb is back in the black and gold of Chiefs after missing the early part of the season.
His impact has been immediate, too, with Nurkovic harassing the AmaZulu defence throughout his comeback game on Wednesday with his immense physical presence. Crucially, he also netted the all-important winning goal at Kings Park to steer Gavin Hunt’s team clear of the choppy waters of the relegation zone.
“I thought Samir was fantastic. I did not want to play him, but we’ve only got one striker available. He had half a chance and scored,” Hunt said.
“I said it from the start that if you get a guy like Samir playing in the team every week‚ it’s like what happened last year where he played in the first 10 games of the season and he was brilliant scoring all those goals.”
City coach Jan Olde Riekerink certainly needs to devise a better plan than his predecessor Benni McCarthy former City mentor and now in charge at AmaZulu – to contain Nurkovic.
It certainly won’t be an easy task either with City set to field a makeshift back four with a couple of experienced defenders ruled out of tomorrow’s clash. Bafana Bafana international Taariq Fielies is suspended due to picking up a yellow card against Black Leopards, while Abbubaker Mobara will also be missing after sustaining a hamstring tear in Limpopo.
Influential midfielders Thabo Nodada and Craig Martin are also not available despite returning to training after their Covid-19 absence as they are not yet fully fit, leaving City with further holes to plug. New signing Justin Shonga won’t be part of the matchday squad either as he works on becoming familiar with City’s structures.
Despite all these setbacks, Olde Riekerink believes City can contain the massive threat Nurkovic poses if they manage to stifle the players surrounding him.
“Nurkovic is back and he will be the guy they will be looking at in terms of scoring the goals. That is (an) important part of the game because he can score goals,” Olde Riekerink said.
“But it’s not only about playing against Nurkovic. It is about playing around the second balls around Nurkovic. He is able to play a lot of balls through flick-ons and sometimes it is more important how you organise it around him instead of focusing on him only.”
Hunt will certainly need to juggle his pack, too, with ace strikers Khama Billiat and Leonardo Castro on the long-term injury list. This has forced him to shift Daniel Cardoso to midfield, which proved a masterstroke against AmaZulu, and he will hope the defender can replicate his stellar performance in his new role once again tomorrow.
“I thought Daniel Cardoso (did well). People think I am mad, but we don’t have anybody else. I worked on him a bit this week to play in midfield and he was brilliant,” Hunt said.