Johannesburg - Defending Absa Premiership champions SuperSport United are battling to find a replacement for their captain and defensive strongman Bongani Khumalo, who will join crack English Premiership club Tottenham Hotspur in January.
"I have one or two players in mind," head coach Gavin Hunt said on Wednesday. He has to find a replacement for the 23-year-old Bafana Bafana central defender in the January transfer window.
"... It is a major problem finding a suitable replacement for Khumalo because now every club we approach thinks we have tons of money and prices for players have rocketed out of proportion," he said.
Spurs reportedly paid about R17 million for Khumalo.
This is not Hunt's only problem.
Like the other Premier Soccer League coaches, he has been unable to get any rhythm going because of the stop-start way the league and cup competitions have been organised this season.
United play their first Premiership match in two weeks when they host Platinum Stars at Atteridgeville’s Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday night.
United are lying ninth with 12 points, 11 behind the leaders and their Pretoria rivals Mamelodi Sundowns, who head the standings with 21 points after nine matches.
"If you get knocked out of a cup competition early then you sit idle for a couple of weeks," said Hunt.
"That wrecks the flow and rhythm of the side, but that is not a complaint because it is the same for all the other sides expect for Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates who reached the Knockout final."
Hunt has also had to deal with long term injuries to key players, including Khumalo who will be back in action against Stars after a layoff of more than a month with an ankle injury.
Hunt has been without his number one and Bafana goalkeeper Emile Baron, defender Thabo September and striker Glen Salmon for the whole season.
"My other centre half Morgan Gould did no pre-season training due to injury and he has also been in and out like Khumalo with injuries this season. It is frustrating. I lost the spine of the side that won the league," he said.
"If that happened to club like Pirates, Chiefs or Sundowns they would also struggle. It is tough losing key players that helped us win the championship last season, but we will fight on."
Hunt said that despite their problems, United were not going to roll over. "We will fight until the final second of the season. There is still a long way to go and hopefully January and 2011 will be a better year for us." On the game against Stars, Hunt said: "I have to pick up the pieces and keep going. It will be tough against Stars who are well organised and a hard running side."