By Petros Kausiyo
Zimbabwe international forward Evans Rusike has received the ultimate compliment from one of the most powerful people in South African football who has described him as a striker with all the markings of greatness.
The 27-year-old sealed a three-year move to SuperSport United yesterday, with club chief executive Stanley Matthews showering the former Maritzburg United star with praises reserved only for the best in the game in Supa Diski.
Rusike said his focus remains to eventually play in Europe and his move opens a window of opportunity for another Zimbabwean — CAPS United striker John Zhuwawu — to replace him at Maritzburg United. Zhuwawu is set to fly out of Harare this morning and expectations are that Maritzburg United will be making frantic efforts to try and beat the transfer window which closes today.
After a blistering start to the season, Rusike’s consistency and potency in front of goal have paid off, with the Warriors striker yesterday making his first big career move by joining SuperSport United. Rusike was immediately unveiled by the Pretoria club at Lucas Moripe Stadium yesterday.
SuperSport United rushed to beat today’s ABSA Premiership transfer deadline by snatching the highly-rated Warriors forward who has played with both consistency and precision in the last two seasons.
Rusike had — for the second successive season — been on fire for Maritzburg United and in the process attracted interest from their bigger Premiership rivals with Kaizer Chiefs having also been on the hunt for his signature.
Although Maritzburg United had vowed to keep their man, at least until June in order for them to secure a top-eight finish, the Team of Choice eventually settled for the deal that SuperSport United had tabled before them.
The player had also told his handlers Avalanche Agency, working with Pro Sport International, he was keen for a move to a bigger club “should a good offer come through’’. This week SuperSport upped the stakes and agreed terms with Maritzburg, paving the way for Rusike’s move.
Rusike’s eagerness to play continental football is also understood to have influenced his decision to choose SuperSport who will be involved in the CAF Confederation Cup again.
The 2017 Confederation Cup runners-up had also long placed Rusike on their radar and their chief executive Matthews confirmed as much to the media in South Africa.
“We have been watching Evans with great interest over the last few years at Maritzburg. He has all the markings of a great striker with blistering pace, great skill and can finish in the box. We are thrilled to announce his signing and look forward to him making a meaningful contribution for us over the next years,” Matthews said.
He is coming as a direct replacement for Jeremy Brockie who moved to Mamelodi Sundowns earlier this month. Since Brockie’s move, Rusike had been a prime target for SuperSport and has been high up on the club’s list of priorities. Rusike had scored seven league goals for Maritzburg, including five in his last eight games, and helped them into fifth place.
The Zimbabwean’s arrival also put a dent to Christian Epoupa’s chances of securing an immediate deal with SuperSport United with the Dynamos striker still being assessed by coach Eric Tinkler and his lieutenants but set to be returning to Harare today.
Although indications are that Epoupa has so far impressed, club sources said yesterday that SuperSport, who have hit a bad patch since finishing as losing finalists to TP Mazembe in the Confederation Cup, had been looking at a quick-fix solution by signing a player who was already familiar with the ABSA Premiership environment.
“There is so much pressure on the club to improve on the league table position and we needed a player who knows the culture of the South African game and can immediately get down to business. If you are replacing a player like Brockie, you should also bring in quality and Evans has that quality.
“The terms are agreed already so what is being worked on is the paperwork to enable him to play. If he does get his permit in time for tomorrow night’s game he will play against AmaZulu, and if it should be out in time for the next game at the weekend against Bloemfontein Celtic then he will play on Saturday,” the sources said.
SuperSport’s woes were compounded on Saturday night when they were thumped 4-1 by Bidvest Wits with the defeat leaving the Confederation Cup runners-up slumping into 13th place with 21 points.
Their coach Eric Tinkler has however, bemoaned the lack of fire-power in his attack which has now been crippled by Brockie’s departure and the former Bafana Bafana midfielder had already made it clear that the search was on for a replacement striker.
And they have now settled on Rusike and there is a possibility that the Warriors’ striker could yet be handed his debut tonight when SuperSport host Ovidy Karuru’s AmaZulu at Lucas Moripe. The Herald