How AmaZulu’s Ntuli found his scoring touch during lockdownby Daniel Mothowagae
Not all PSL players have good facilities or decent gardens in which to perfect their skills during the Covid-19 coronavirus-enforced lockdown.
But not AmaZulu leading striker Bonginkosi Ntuli, who has a football ground right at his doorstep in his home town of Cato Ridge in KwaZulu-Natal.
The 29-year-old told City Press that he had been utilising the community facility in Emkhambathini to brush up on target shooting since the eased lockdown regulations allowed for outdoor exercise.
Ntuli has been a shining light in a season in which Usuthu are nervously looking over their shoulder in the battle for Absa Premiership survival, with the club placed second from the bottom on the log.
Ntuli had incredibly scored 12 of AmaZulu’s 14 goals in 24 league games before the season was put on hold in the middle of March. Siyethemba Sithebe and Butholezwe Ncube netted the other two.
While Ntuli bemoaned the adverse impact the postponement of matches might have on his relegation-threatened side, he maintained that he could still replicate his scoring form if the PSL programme resumed.
“The postponement has not affected me much because, in addition to following the club’s training programme from home to keep fit, I have been able to do target shooting at the ground, which is just a short walk from my home,” said the media-shy marksman.
Ntuli believes the end to the race for the top scorer award would have gone either way among the top five players who are in contention.
He is jointly on 12 strikes with Bradley Grobler of SuperSport United and Highlands Park striker Peter Shalulile – who are all two goals adrift of Orlando Pirates talisman Gabadinho Mhango.
Kaizer Chiefs’ Samir Nurkovic and Golden Arrows’ Knox Mutizwa – tied in the top five at 11 goals each – complete the list of players on double digits in the chase for the golden boot.
The postponement of the games came at a time when we had just picked up three points. We were treating all our remaining matches like cup finals.Bonginkosi Ntuli
The Absa Premiership campaign was supposed to have been completed on May 9.
“The scoring rate was impressive among us, and it was still not yet clear who could have taken [the golden boot],” said Ntuli.
“But for us as a team, the postponement of the games came at a time when we had just picked up three points [via a 1-0 win over log leaders Kaizer Chiefs on March 7]. We were treating all our remaining matches like cup finals.”
He scored the solitary goal that handed Usuthu their sixth win of the campaign, and Chiefs’ fourth defeat.
As for how he discovered his scoring touch, Ntuli attributes this to being stable at one club, considering that he had spent the better part of his career on loan since he came to prominence with Golden Arrows in 2012.
He was once on Mamelodi Sundowns’ books, but, owing to limited game time, he was loaned out to the now defunct Platinum Stars for three years, and then twice to AmaZulu before his last move was made permanent by the Durban club last year.
“At least I am able to do the preseason with one club now, since I have a permanent contract with AmaZulu,” he pointed out.
Nicknamed Costa by his peers after Spanish and Atlético Madrid striker Diego Costa, Ntuli’s scoring rate compares with some of Europe’s prolific scorers during the 2019/20 season.
While this season undoubtedly ranks as Ntuli’s best by far, he attributed his improvement in front of goal to working alongside PSL’s top scorers Siyabonga Nomvethe and Mabhuti Khenyeza during their spell at Usuthu.
“They helped me perfect my finishing and movement in and around the goal area,” said Ntuli, adding that he was also benefiting a lot under his current coach, Ayanda Dlamini, who is also a former striker.
Interestingly, Ntuli’s 44th-minute winner against Chiefs marked Dlamini’s first game in charge as caretaker coach after the club placed head tactician Jozef Vukušic on special leave at the beginning of March.
Although he was reluctant to talk about the pay cuts at AmaZulu caused by Covid-19, the big striker said he was hoping the PSL would be granted permission to conclude the remaining games.
Black Leopards striker Mwape Musonda finished as the top scorer with 16 league goals last season.