Juicy rivalry spices up SuperSport-Chiefs clash

Stuart Baxter was always likely to return to the South African footballing arena at some stage or another, but the intriguing prospect of him going up against his former Kaizer Chiefs charges less than a year after leaving them was not anticipated.

The 62-year-old Englishman (erroneously dubbed a Scot in many quarters) takes charge of his new club SuperSport United on Saturday night against Kaizer Chiefs in Cape Town, just weeks after returning to the Premier Soccer League.

This time last year he was leading Chiefs to a second title in three seasons, restoring a public reputation that had been sullied by his barren run with Bafana Bafana between 2004 and 2005.

Bafana’s failure to qualify for the World Cup in Germany, blowing an advantageous position by losing at home to Ghana in their penultimate qualifier, branded Baxter a failure, even if his overall record with the national team was 10 wins, six draws and seven defeats in 23 outings.

Rectifying this perception was among the motivations that fuelled his return when Chiefs hired him in 2012, and Baxter quickly reaffirmed his abilities by bringing a championship title to the team for the first time in seven years.


In his three seasons at the club, Chiefs won the Premier Soccer League championship twice plus the Nedbank Cup and MTN8 trophies.

But towards the end of the third campaign, the relationship between Baxter and Chiefs began to unravel, leading to an extraordinary farewell press conference where the mutual expressions of bonhomie rang hollow.

Player acquisition was one area in which Baxter was blatantly excluded, like the purchase of David Zulu, which he knew nothing about until the player landed from Chippa United. He was most irritated by the management’s unilateral approach to strengthening his squad.

Baxter wanted a more classic-style No 9 and brought journeyman forward James Keene out from Sweden for extensive trials, punting the English player’s virtues to the press in an attempt to force Chiefs to sign him. They did not, to the coach’s chagrin, although in hindsight Keene’s impact at Bidvest Wits over the past two months suggests Chiefs missed a trick.

Baxter went off to a risky job in Turkey, where he lasted mere weeks, and has been waiting in the wings to take over at SuperSport United for months now. He was due to replace Gordon Igesund at the end of the season, but the club’s disappointing results hastened his appointment.

His three matches in charge since his arrival have seen SuperSport pick up four out of a possible nine points, but the hope will be that the club can gain momentum and finish easily inside the top eight by season’s end.

They have a decent enough squad, although Baxter’s remit will be to ensure league success from next season onwards. How realistic their expectations are will be evident on Saturday when Baxter’s team trots out against his old charges.

Chiefs are significantly changed since his departure, with successor Steve Komphela more attacking in his approach but missing the structural discipline that was the cornerstone of Baxter’s success.

The Chiefs players probably prefer the Komphela way, unshackled from the strictures that Baxter held dear, but Komphela continues to toil under the shadow of his predecessor, having yet to pick up any silverware since taking over and finding himself 10 points behind leaders Mamelodi Sundowns in the title race.

Komphela used to be Baxter’s assistant with the national team, but he must be getting increasingly tired of comparisons between his current Chiefs side and the one that won the title a year ago. It adds a tasty little sideline rivalry to the occasion.

Saturday’s match is the last of a trio Chiefs have “hosted” in Cape Town in a lucrative arrangement with a city council keen to use better their World Cup stadium.

But the last game saw them concede two goals in the closing stages and lose to Platinum Stars to severely dent their title hopes. The crowds for the previous two games did not top 20 000, suggesting Cape Town might well have wasted its ratepayers’ money.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Corporate and broadcast deals push PSL to restart

Football will return, but the players are likely to have very little time to acquaint themselves with the "new normal"

Out of our Wits: Should more be done to block club sales?

South African football is in an awkward position where it dare not refuse investment … no matter the cost

10 years on: The legacy of the 2010 World Cup

In the first part of our new series, we take a look at the goal that has played on loop in our heads and on TV channels for the last decade

Safa: There will be no football, our decision is final

Danny Jordaan has laid down the law and forbid behind-closed doors matches from going ahead.

Minister greenlights sports to continue behind closed doors

Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa has made clear that the government is not opposed to games going ahead without spectators provided they adhere to strict safety protocols

PSL pushes pause on football

The League is on halt for now but we still know almost nothing about what the future holds
Advertising

New education policy on gender violence released

Universities and other higher education institutions have to develop ways of preventing or dealing with rape and other damaging behaviour

Cambridge Food Jozini: Pandemic or not, the price-gouging continues

The Competition Commission has fined Cambridge Food Jozini for hiking the price of its maize meal during April

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday