WINDHOEK – Namibian goalkeeper Virgil Vries displayed great maturity, calmness and resolve in his first competitive debut for South African giants Kaizer Chiefs as they smoothly sailed past a star-crossed Free State Stars FC to reach the MTN8 Cup semifinals on Saturday.
With Chiefs’ first-choice veteran goalie Itumeleng Khune granted compassionate leave to fully attend to the recovery of his girlfriend Sbahle Mpisane, who is fighting for her life in ICU after a horrific car accident in the early hours of Thursday morning, Vries was Saturday thrown into the deep end of things as he made his first competitive start for the club.
The 29-year-old Namibian shot-stopper donned the No.16 jersey in Chiefs’ starting lineup on Saturday, as a ruthless high-tempo Amakosi dismantled Free State 3-0 to join Mamelodi Sundowns, SuperSport United and Cape Town City in the MTN8 Cup semifinals.
Although Chiefs dominated proceedings for the better part of the match, Stars managed to threat Chiefs’ goal once in the first half, with Harris Tchilimbou teeing up Yusuf Jappie who powerfully took aim from the edge of the box, but an alert Vries easily stifled his effort on 34 minutes.
Midway through the second half, Chiefs again had to rely on Vries to make a sharp save at his near post, as Stars substitute Judas Moseamedi met a right-wing cross and glanced a header on target from close range, which the Namibian parried away for a corner kick.
Though Vries, along with the likes of Khama Billiat and Letlhogonolo Mirwa, already made their club debuts in the recent Bokone Bophirima Maize Cup, which Chiefs won late last month, it was however the Namibian’s first competitive debut for the club.
What impressed most on Saturday was Vries’ overall composure, display of maturity and his unmatched ball distribution skills, which did not go unnoticed as the match commentators constantly heaped praise on the Namibia’s ball distribution prowess and inclusive commanded in his territory.
Chiefs were hapless earlier in the week when they were put to the sword by another Namibian Deon Hotto’s Bidvest Wits, which thrashed them 3-1 in their first home game this season under coach Giovanni Solinas.
Saturday’s MTN8 win was a massive response from that setback as goals by Dumisani Zuma, Leonardo Castro and Billi were enough to propel Chiefs to the semifinals.
Vries, who joined Chiefs in June, on a three-year deal as a replacement for Brilliant Khuzwayo who has joined Amakhosi’s rivals Orlando Pirates, spent the last season with Baroka FC before he was offloaded.