Thursday Aug 12, 2021. 10:00
Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter says he wants to see his own team – and others in South Africa’s top flight – knock Mamelodi Sundowns “off their perch”.
Sundowns have dominated in domestic terms, with even the departure of manager Pitso Mosimane for Al Ahly last year not slowing them down, as a team of co-coaches – Steve Komphela, Rulani Mokwena and Manqoba Mngqithi – led the Brazilians to an unprecedented fourth successive league title in 2020-21.
‘Downs will open their new campaign this coming Sunday with a heavyweight MTN8 quarterfinal clash against Kaizer Chiefs, who may have reached the CAF Champions League final but otherwise endured a miserable last season.
Baxter has returned for a second spell in charge of the Amakhosi and believes that it is the duty of his team to lead a way back to a competitive and unpredictable state of affairs in South African football.
“Sundowns have set the benchmark, and I don’t totally agree when everyone says they’ve signed all the best players,” Baxter is quoted by Kick-Off.
“You’ve still got to go out and make a team. That doesn’t entitle anyone to win championships.
“To keep winning championships is an impressive performance by everybody at Sundowns, and I’m sure that they’re proud of it.”
He continued, “The sleepless nights that I may have is about working out how I can get the best out of my players and not how I can knock down the Sundowns players.
“I think the gap has increased, but again, it’s not because we couldn’t sign players, but there’s been a few reasons why gradually Chiefs have been away from that benchmark.
“I hope that the rebuilding process will lead to closing that gap [to Sundowns] and eventually knocking them off their perch. I’m sure that there are a few teams in that chasing pack that would like to do that.
“The pressure is firmly on Sundowns in the way they run the club. I mean Paris Saint-Germain have just signed Leo Messi. Now the only thing that will satisfy everybody will be a Champions League trophy.
“When you have signed as many players as Sundowns have signed, it increases that pressure in that the bar is set higher. So they will have the favourite stamp, and it’s up to the rest of us to chase them down and knock them off that perch.
“To make sure that there’s some sort of greater competition into the league because they’ve been good in making that competition pretty sparse.”
Sundowns and Chiefs will meet in their MTN8 match at Lucas Moripe Stadium on the afternoon of Sunday 15 August.