Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
TWENTY-YEAR-OLD Raphael Pitisi could play his first high profile match for Highlanders when they face Dynamos should Ariel Sibanda fail to recover from a groin injury which ruled him out from the 1-0 win against Bulawayo Chiefs.
The country’s Premiership blockbuster encounter between the traditional giants is set for the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.
Sibanda, a vital cog in Highlanders’ squad, was ruled out for the Chiefs game on the eve of the match after failing a late fitness test.
The former national team goalie was replaced by Pitisi who kept a clean sheet and was ably protected by his defence which he commanded well to thwart any threats by Chiefs.
Joel Luphahla, Highlanders’ assistant coach revealed that Sibanda had been playing with a groin strain for a while and now they await the medical team to have an assessment of the player to see if he can be available for the crunch Dynamos tie.
Luphahla said in the event that Sibanda fails to recover, they are confident that Pitisi will do a great job.
“Ariel has a groin injury. A groin injury is difficult to estimate how long a player will be out. With the type of play that we want, it requires that the goalkeeper uses more of his feet but Ariel can’t kick and it becomes very difficult for him.
“He’s been carrying this (groin strain) for some time but for now it has gotten the best of him. But we hope that with a little bit of rest and treatment he’s going to come back soon. We’re all hoping that he’ll be back soon, but we don’t know when Ariel is going to be back because groin injuries take two to three weeks to heal.
But if he doesn’t recover we know that the team is in good hands, it’s in safe hands,” Luphahla said.
The former Zimbabwe international went on to heap praises on Pitisi, adding that keeping a clean sheet against Chiefs was a boost the young goalkeeper needs in the event that Sibanda fails to recover ahead of the clash with DeMbare.
“We’re happy for Raphael that he came in to play the way he did. He’s kept a clean sheet and I think we haven’t had a clean sheet in three or four games. So this clean sheet is a boost to the goalkeeping department and to Raphael in the event that the captain isn’t available for the game against Dynamos,” Luphahla said.
Besides Sibanda, another injury scare that Bosso face is that of central defender Mbongeni Ndlovu who was stretchered off the game against Chiefs in the 22nd minute and had to be replaced by Crispen Ncube.
The injury inspired substitution led to Highlanders reorganising their defence, with Andrew Mbeba moved to the centre to partner Peter Muduhwa while Ncube occupied the right back.
Luphahla could not be drawn to disclose the severity of Ndlovu’s injury.
“It’s a recurring injury that Mbongeni has. Remember, he once stayed three or four games out. But for now we’re going to hear from the doctors. His injury is a setback for us but we’re hopeful that he recovers.
However, with what we have, we can make sure that we get a replacement for him if he cannot play versus Dynamos,” Luphahla said.
Besides Mbeba, utility player Pritchard Mphelele can play at central defence alongside Muduhwa. — @ZililoR