Kaizer Chiefs coach Molefi Ntseki has sung the praises of Ashley du Preez following the player’s explosive start to the new season.
ASHLEY du Preez’s debut season at Kaizer Chiefs only gave credence to the myth that Cape Town-born players struggle to adapt to life in Johannesburg’s fast lane.
Nine goals and five assists in 32 appearances across all competitions was not entirely disappointing, but so much more was expected from the flying Idas Valley winger after he completed a high-profile move from Stellenbosch FC.
And when he suffered a horrific ankle injury after a shocking tackle from Cape Town City’s Taariq Fielies, who saw straight red that led to his suspension, in the final game of last season it seemed like Du Preez would be starting on the backfoot in his second season at Naturena too.
But despite a limited pre-season and still not entirely match-fit, the 26-year-old has raced out of the blocks with two goals in successive matches against Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City, prompting new Amakhosi coach Molefi Ntseki to hail him as “the best acquisition we have brought to the club”.
“Ash was struggling towards the end, but he has a big heart. He has so much belief in himself and his qualities,” Ntseki told the media after Chiefs’ 2-1 win over City to advance to the MTN8 semi-finals.
“I think he is not yet at his 80%. He got injured in our last game against Cape Town City. He did not have a full pre-season that’s why I am saying he has such a big heart.
“We believe in him. He is only 70-80%. Let’s just think of Ash when he is 100%. It was the best acquisition we have brought to the club because we were fully aware of his qualities. And he is paying back in terms of the goals he is getting for the club.”
Du Preez’s red-hot form certainly bodes well for Ntseki and a Chiefs team determined to put smiles back on the faces of their long-suffering supporters.
They will be hoping the victory over City – which was Ntseki’s first since being promoted from Head of Technical and Youth Academy to head coach at the beginning of this season – is the confidence booster the team requires to put a string of good results together in the DStv Premiership after gaining just one point from their opening two matches.
Du Preez can certainly not be the only source of goals though if Chiefs are to get close to achieving their objectives, which is why they also need Sunday’s hero Edson Castillo to continue his adaptation to the fast-paced nature of local football.
The Venezuelan midfielder struck home the winner in the dying moments of the quarter-final to send the vast majority inside Athlone Stadium into raptures, but for the most part he seemed to be just a second behind the pace of the game.
Ntseki is confident, though, that Castillo will improve the more exposure he gets.
“We had scouts going to Venezuela to watch him play, and we saw a player that we needed at the club. We saw someone with confidence on the ball, and with a little bit of intelligence in dealing with situations, and he is bringing that to the team,” the former Bafana Bafana mentor said.
“It is only his third game in South Africa and there is lots more to come from him. He appears to be a very intelligent midfielder. In terms of the pace, the weather conditions, and the type of opponents we play against and the players that play around him, he will learn quickly.”
Chiefs have a week to recover from the MTN8 exertions before they travel to the Mbombela Stadium to face TS Galaxy in the DStv Premiership.