JOHANNESBURG — Chippa United have been dealt a massive blow ahead of their opening Premier Soccer League Playoff fixture against Santos today after star striker Benjani Mwaruwari was ruled out with a hamstring strain.
The former Zimbabwe international has been a key component of the revival of the Chilli Boyz under coach Mark Harrison that has seen them put together a run of six matches without defeat.
“Benjani is out of the next game, possibly the next two. But we are hopeful of getting him back for the third match after the break for the World Cup qualifiers,” Harrison told supersport.com.
“It is a hamstring problem and those can take time to heal.”
Chippa start their playoff campaign against Santos today, before travelling to Mpumalanga to face Black Aces on Saturday. The third match of their campaign is only on June 23 against Santos once more.
The Cape Town club finished 15th in the Absa Premiership, rallying under Harrison to move off the bottom of the league at the expense of Black Leopards.
They now face National First Division sides Santos and Black Aces in a round-robin competition between now and June 29, with the team that collects the most points playing in the top-flight in the 2013/14 season.
Tonight’s match will kick off at 7:30pm and be covered live on SuperSport SS4.
It is a repeat of the last match of last year’s play-offs at the same venue where Chippa won a dramatic 4-3 triumph over Santos to clinch a place in the Absa Premiership.
But the Cape Town club were forced to play their first play-off game against Thanda Royal Zulu at the Athlone Stadium until the PSL relented and allowed them to move back to their home venue.
Chippa United owner Siviwe Mpengesi since paid for new floodlights to be put in at the Philippi Stadium so that his team could return to their fortress in the township for the second half of the season.
The lack of requisite power in the floodlights saw the PSL ban the new boys from using the venue after they won promotion.
The majority of their matches in the first half of the season were fixtured for night-time kick-offs which has led to the refurbishment of the floodlights at Philippi, which cost Mpengesi some R2-million out of his own pocket. He has a 20-year lease on the stadium.
Athlone Stadium did not prove popular with Chippa’s followers because it is too far away and too expensive for fans to travel to.