JOHANNESBURG - In as much as Stuart Baxter has been cautious about entertaining any Absa Premiership title aspirations, the two-time league winner is still determined to have a hand in the destination of this season’s trophy.

Baxter, who spoke to The Star prior to being admitted to hospital on Monday and declared unfit to sit in the dugout for the next two matches, has been guarded about discussing the possibility of adding a third championship to his CV - this time with SuperSport United following success with Kaizer Chiefs in 2013 and 2015 - but with his side travelling to one of the favourites, Bidvest Wits, on Tuesday in the race to finish top of the log next month, the Scot wants to either see his men back in contention or spoil the party for the Clever Boys. 

His reservations about winning the league are understandable, given how SuperSport slipped down to fifth place after three successive defeats - first to Baroka FC and then twice losing to defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns in a Tshwane derby that continue to be very much one-sided.

“When we played Sundowns in the 1-0 game (the first was a 5-0 drubbing) I thought we had the better chances,” said Baxter, who was feeling a lot more confident at the weekend after SuperSport sent Kaizer Chiefs crashing out of the Nedbank Cup quarterfinals. 

“I feel there is a bit of a response from the shock of losing to Baroka and then being thrashed by Sundowns, who took full advantage of the situation. Again, I don’t want to talk about titles and all that, but I think we have come back.”

In Wits they will face a team that is a lot fresher, with no cup commitments having been knocked out early, and that may have given coach Gavin Hunt and his men enough time to sift through their remaining League fixtures and assess what they are up against in the quest to win a championship for the first time in the history of the club.

“The next few games are going to define if we have got anything at all to do with the title,” Baxter said. “We’ve got Wits, Chiefs and Cape Town City in our next matches. I am not at all throwing in the towel, because I have been around the block too many times and I know there are a lot of ways to win the championship. Sometimes when you think you are out, maybe that is not the case. If you keep on playing (well), then you put pressure on others to win their games and then we wait and see.”

The cup win over Chiefs, albeit through a penalty shoot-out, perhaps put to bed suggestions that SuperSport were on a bit of a wobble. Baxter wasn’t entirely upbeat, but he knows his men can dismantle Wits having done so 2-0 in the corresponding fixture in November.

“It’s going to be a challenge to keep playing well,” said Baxter. “We have said we're going to give it our best shot in every tournament. We don’t have much time between the games now and we have our CAF (Confederation Cup) games coming up as well. 

"That means players like young Teboho Mokoena, Aubrey Modiba and Fagrie Lakay are going to have to step up because we can’t ask Yeye (Reneilwe Letsholonyane) at his age to keep on churning out (good) performances, because it’s not human. We will keep being a nuisance around the top of the league and if anybody slips up, there’s an opening for us.”


The Star

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