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Themba Chauke: Kaizer Chiefs Are Beatable

Polokwane City have been one of the most consistent teams in the Premier Soccer League in recent seasons and one of their main strategies is showing faith in the youth. We caught up with Themba Chauke, one of the new recruits at Rise and Shine this term.

The midfielder spent the previous campaign on loan at Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila to get more game time under his belt and develop further as a player. That was indeed the case and Themba is now a key figure in Zlatko Krmpotic’s midfield, starting four matches already this season.

Banele Pikwa: How are you Themba? You must be a happy man. Things are good for you and the team these days…

Themba Chauke: I’m good my brother, thanks for asking. Yes, I’m happy with what is happening so far and I hope it stays like this forever (laughs) but ke ama [then] challenges will always be there kodwa sizobhekezela [but we will hold on] because this game demands us to be strong. But things are not that bad I’m busy working hard and pushing myself very hard and to be honest I do see the light as there are some positive things that I can see. So I’m very happy with what is happening at the moment.

BP: That’s good to hear. Let’s start with last season, you were on loan to Tshakhuma. How was it there and how is it different compared to the Absa Premiership?

TC: Look, my mission was always to return to the PSL but I had a great time playing at Tshakuma and I learnt a lot there. I thank everyone for that opportunity as it helped me grow and I can say I’m now ready to compete against anyone. 

As for the difference, I’d say the PSL is more tactical and demands players to be very clever and quick-thinking when it comes to decision making. Here, we think a lot and we have to act fast whereas in the lower division it’s very physical and games are played at a high intensity.

BP: Talking about being tactical, your new coach Zlatko Krmpotic seems like he’s a tactical genius. What is it like working with him?

TC: He’s a very good coach, he believes a lot in young players and he’s a very friendly person. Everyone at the club loves him and he jokes with everyone. He motivates us a lot and he makes it clear that if you work hard you will be given a chance. He’s very organised tactically and we are learning a lot from him and this is just a start. We are yet to see the best of him, I really think he’s one of the best in the league.

BP: We have seen some good coaches at Polokwane City but they don’t stay long there. What do you think is the reason for that?

TC: I won’t comment much on this one because I can’t really say why coaches leave. Remember, I wasn’t here last season so I can’t really say why coaches don’t stay. I really don’t have much information on this one.

BP: You guys drew 0-0 in the MTN semi-final first leg at home to Highlands Park, how confident are you about progressing to the final and who has the advantage in the second leg?

TC: Look, playing a semi-final is different from playing a normal game and it’s even worse if it’s a two-legged fixture. You have to play with a lot of caution because we didn’t want to be trailing or even give them that away goal. I’d say it’s more of an advantage for us because if we get one goal they will have to score two. It won’t be easy getting that goal as they are a very difficult team but I believe in my team and I know we can do it so I’d say we have the advantage. I’d be very disappointed if we don’t make it to the final.

BP: Straight after the international break you will play Kaizer Chiefs, who are on top of the log. What have you made of them this season?

TC: Kaizer Chiefs have proven to be a tough team this season, we have watched some of their games and I have to say they are impressive. But I’m happier with our performances so far, it will be a very tough game between two strong teams. We have to be positive and take the game to them. They are definitely beatable and to be honest I think we will collect maximum points, that’s how much I believe in my team. I don’t see Kaizer Chiefs beating us on Saturday, it won’t be easy, we will have to earn it. I’m really confident on getting a result, [angazi ukuthi kanjani kodwa sizoyithola le win] I don’t know how but we will get this win.

BP: You might come against their new signing Kearyn Baccus who was impressive against Cape Town City. Have you done your homework on him?

TC: Yes, we always do our homework on our opponents. I do know most players at Kaizer Chiefs and I’m prepared to face them. In fact, I’m not scared of facing anyone in the league. Yes, their midfield is good but I really think ours is even better but I don’t want to talk a lot. I like doing all the talking on the field of play and that’s where everything should be done. I’m not worried about Baccus or any of their players and they should worry more about us, football is like that. Your opponents should worry about you.

BP: Polokwane City have conceded just one goal this season. The team is rock solid at the back, is coach Krmpotic a defensive person?

TC: No! No! He’s very offensive and he always encourages us to attack. He puts a lot of emphasis on keeping the structure and ensures we don’t lose shape and that makes it harder for teams to unlock us. The defensive players are listening to the instructions and that has helped us a lot. We play with five midfielders with three focusing on defending and protecting the defence, then we have two who are more offensive and I’m part of the offensive two.

BP: What are your personal targets for the season?

TC: Winning something [a trophy] with Polokwane City will be amazing and already we have the opportunity as we are in the semi-finals of the MTN8. So, my goal is to win a trophy, something that will make our fans happy. They deserve to see their team win. Seeing supporters happy makes me happy because they are the reason we push so hard every day.

BP: Which team did you grow up supporting?

TC:  I grew up supporting Orlando Pirates, they were my favourite team.

BP: Do you still follow them? If yes, what do you think is the problem at the club and do you think coach Rhulani is the man for the job?

TC: Yes, mina ngiyamthemba kakhulu [I really believe in him]. I think he will need to be given time like any other coach and his a young South African so he understands the modern game and he knows how to work with young South African players. I have never worked with him but I think he will only get better. Orlando Pirates is a big team so obviously, it will be difficult for anyone to take over and get [ama results ngokushesha] instant results. 

BP: Which big team would you choose to play for?

TC: That one is really difficult because you never know what happens tomorrow, so you can’t say I want to go play for this team and I don’t want that team. Every team changes every season, they can be at their best now but struggle in the following season. It’s really difficult to say who I want to play for one day and I’m very happy at Polokwane City even if I finish my career here I wouldn’t mind. 

I wouldn’t look at it as a failure, I’d still be happy with everything I’ve achieved. But, obviously, we cannot deny the fact that a team like Kaizer Chiefs is one of the biggest in Africa so to be a part such big team means you’ve really worked hard as a player but I’m very happy where I am. 

If I was forced to answer this question and choose one team then maybe a team like Kaizer Chiefs but that’s only when I’m forced to answer the question otherwise I’m happy where I am and I’ll continue giving my best and see what happens next.

BP: We are also very happy talking to you Themba and thank you so much. Good luck with the MTN8 second leg!

TC: Thanks a lot, my brother, I appreciate it.

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