Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
KAIZER Chiefs captain Willard Katsande has heaped praises on talismanic forward Khama Billiat and feels he has found his form in time to power Amakhosi to Nedbank Cup glory and crucially, inspire the Warriors to a strong 2019 African Cup of Nations campaign.
Billiat capped a man of the match performance in the Nedbank Cup semi-final clash against Chippa United by scoring a wonder goal that sealed a 4-2 victory for the Soweto giants.
His captain Katsande described him as a special player to the club while Chippa coach Clinton Larsen also admired his lovely goal which he felt was “world class’’ and probably the only one which his team deserved to concede.
Katsande also put on a gritty show in midfield and could have easily won the man of the match had he just not been eclipsed by the brilliant Billiat show.
The veteran midfielder who captained the Warriors at the 2017 Nations Cup in Gabon told The Herald yesterday that he believes that Billiat had rediscovered his top form “at the right time that both club and country needed him’’.
Chiefs have endured a frustrating four-year drought for any silverware in the South African top-flight and with the league championship already out of their grasp, the Nebank Cup now provides them with their best chance to win something for their fans.
The Soweto giants will now face giant-killers TS Galaxy who stunned fancied Golden Arrows and denied Knox Mutizwa, Devine Lunga and Danny Phiri a chance to line up against Teenage Hadebe, Katsande and Billiat. TS Galaxy scored two goals in extra-time in a 3-1 win at Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium in Clermont in an earlier semi-final on Saturday.
Zakhele Lepasa scored a brace for the National First Division outfit within the 30 minutes of additional time, as they follow University of Pretoria and Black Leopards as teams from South Africa’s second division to play in the cup showpiece. Warriors striker Mutizwa had thrust Arrows into a 71st minute lead from the penalty spot.
But it is the exquisite Billiat show in the clash at Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth that left Katsande and the Chiefs coach, Ernst Middendorp, and the Amakhosi fans purring.
“Like I always say he is our special player whenever he brings his A game we always look dangerous and that was evident against Chippa. It’s also good for us as Zimbabwe for him to reach top form. We need him to be at his best when we go to Egypt,’’ Katsande said.
Katsande also admitted that pressure had been mounting on Chiefs particularly the senior players ahead of their clash against Chippa.
“We spoke as players the night before the game and we made it clear to one another how important this match was and as senior players we wanted to lead by example. And we said if we fail this game the only time we could do corrections is next year same time so we all resolved to leave everything on the pitch”.
Former Bafana Bafana international Bernard Parker also played a blinder in the game against Chippa and drew Chiefs level after they fallen 2-1 with the veteran striker slicing home off a fine Billiat pass.
Katsande said although TS Galaxy are from the NFD, Chiefs would not leave anything to chance as the pressure to deliver is more on them that than the Rockets.
“We have a drought and we know that it’s our last chance of the season to put silverware in our cabinet.
“We are ready to rumble. We have the pedigree to do it . . . we have got a strong team. We are a business-minded team. It’s also nothing new to be in the final.
‘‘For them they will be happy just to be in the final and will wait for one moment to catch the throat and destroy it,’’ Katsande said.
While he spoke glowingly of Billiat, Katsande also received special praise from Chiefs coach Middendorp, as Amakhosi made it to their first cup final since December 2015.
Although there were several standout figures from Amakhosi’s performance, Billiat was the chosen recipient of the Man of the Match award ahead of hardworking Madagascar international Andriamirado Andrianarimanan, Katsande and Parker.
But Middendorp was notably impressed with the resurgence of 33-year-old Katsande, who has been in and out of the side since the German’s arrival in December.
Katsande’s in and out shows at Chiefs also meant he could not hold out a regular place in the Warriors with his comeback bid lasting just the away trip to Liberia which Zimbabwe
lost 1-0 in a Group G qualifier.
“Sometimes I wonder about the man of the match (selections), as I said after Black Leopards.
“In this game I saw many candidates, but definitely Khama deserved it, there’s no doubt about it,” said Middendorp.
“But I went immediately to the centre of the field where Willard was talking to the referees, and I said to him, ‘I don’t know the official man of the match is, but for me, you are the man of the match.’
“I’m very critical and I think we definitely grew in our process of understanding each other and how we wanted (him) to play out of this position.
“Sometimes he was in (the team); sometimes completely out; sometimes he came in (off the bench), but I think his reaction at this level is fantastic.
“He is absolutely an example of how you want to have it as a coach.
“Here and there it doesn’t work, but come back, train, working hard, discuss how to do better.
“I was always criticising his backward play and passing to the side, but if you see him now, that’s what he has taken into account in order to improve his forward thinking, passing and even his movement.
“That was lacking in the beginning and we struggled to get it right, but he’s definitely on a good way as we saw,’’ Middendorp told kick-off.