JOHANNESBURG - For SuperSport United to build on their cup triumph at the weekend, they will need much more depth than they’ve had to make do with during the 2016/17 season.
Stuart Baxter’s assessment of the Nedbank Cup champions will definitely have a bit more detail than that, but what will be at the heart of it is that Matsatsantsa, who thrashed Orlando Pirates 4-1 at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday night to lift the trophy, can no longer rely on the same players every week given their schedule, which will remain unchanged - this domestic cup win pushing them back into the CAF Confederation Cup next year.
“I think in every area we have worked on, they can improve,” Baxter, who will be replaced by Eric Tinkler at the end of the month, said.
“That is what it is. You never stand still in life, either you improve or you get worse because if they stand still then everyone else around them will get past them. Their defending, transition, penetration, set-plays and being mentally strong will have to improve.
"We were on a great run this season, playing like we played in this final. But suddenly we hit a wall with injuries and the travelling in Africa, the heavy flights and tough conditions.”
Tinkler comes in from July 1, although he will not be in charge of SuperSport’s Confederation Cup group phase fixture away to Horoya on that day, as assistant coach Kaitano Tembo continues in the role and will make the trip.
After that, the schedule will likely be a carbon copy of the previous season, but with somewhat higher expectations. The Nedbank Cup win means missing out on the Premier League title by finishing fifth wasn’t so bad after all for Baxter.
“A lot of people spoke about us having a big squad, but we had 17 fit players at one stage and that was an enormous burden,” explained Baxter.
“People like Yeye (Reneilwe Letsholonyane), who started the season on fire and ended it on fire, had a little patch where he really needed a rest, which he could have done if we had a bigger squad. That little patch there was enough to drop points and lose a bit of confidence, and by the time we got it back it was fifth place, which could have been fourth place in the last game of the season, but the energy was just not in the tank.
"I have to look at that and ask if that is an excuse or a reason, and then we have to draw something rational from it and learn the lessons.”
Baxter will put this all on his report prior to departing for good, his new permanent post being that of Bafana Bafana coach - a job he was offered whilst still in the SuperSport position - which may have distracted his players while he was contemplating the offer.
Tinkler has been given assurances that the club will try all in its power to hold on to their key players, among them striker Jeremy Brockie, who scored one of the goals in the 4-1 win on Saturday, and missed a penalty.
Kaizer Chiefs and Sundowns are believed to be interest in the New Zealand forward, but SuperSport have so far refused to put a price tag on their goal poacher. Tinkler will need him and the core of team to stay on to do one better than Baxter, who won two cups in 18 months.