Baxter agrees with Maponyane on derby: ‘Chiefs and Pirates have had their issues’
Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter has admitted that Amakhosi and Orlando Pirates legend Marks Maponyane may have a point that the stature of the Soweto derby could be living on borrowed time if the two teams don’t boost their domestic performances.
Chiefs and Pirates have battled to seventh and sixth places respectively ahead of Saturday's DStv Premiership Soweto derby at FNB Stadium (kickoff: 3.30pm).
Maponyane gave an outspoken opinion this week that Mamelodi Sundowns’ awe-inspiring, decade-long dominance of SA football, and Chiefs and Pirates’ underperformance, means the derby — one of the biggest in Africa — is surviving on sentimental value.
Sundowns have won four Premiership titles in succession and six of the last eight, notching up the 2016 Caf Champions League, 2017 Caf Super Cup and five domestic cup trophies in the same period.
Pirates last won the league in 2011-12 and have two MTN8 trophies to show from the last nine seasons. Chiefs have not won silverware in the past six seasons.
Baxter was asked how he would respond to Maponyane’s sentiment, and whether Chiefs’ and Pirates’ current league positions are a wake-up call to the Soweto giants.
“I don’t think the question is harsh. I think it’s real. And it’s one that we should take to our hearts and address,” Chiefs’ coach said.
“Absolutely Chiefs and Pirates have had their issues in recent years.
“You can look at it and say that Rangers and Celtic is a top game, Barcelona and Madrid is a top game — all the derbies are usually a top game. But then you have Tottennham-Arsenal, which was threatening to be an also-ran.
“I think the [Soweto] derby can manage this situation for a while but not forever. Because then people will say that it’s not ‘the derby’.
“They’ll say actually Pirates against Sundowns or Chiefs against Sundowns is the big one, even though traditionally it is not.
“So I think it’s a real question, I think it’s one that we have to take to our hearts, and one we have to address. And the only way we address it is by getting better. Don’t get angry, get better.”
Pirates counterpart Mandla Ncikazi was asked if it bothers him that the two teams go into Saturday's derby at the foot of the top eight in the league.
“With everything that has happened — the Covid-19 that football has faced, the injuries that Pirates have gone through — we have accepted, and acceptance is the first stage of improvement,” he said.
“We have just accepted where we are, we can only get better going forward rather than mourning and trying to change what we can’t change.
“Maybe it’s good that this is happening to both teams at this period — it gives us an opportunity.
“But a derby is a derby ... It’s a big match in any calendar.
“So the position that we both have on the PSL log does not really affect our thinking and how we are going to be approaching the match on Saturday.”
Maponyane’s blunt assessment this week was that: “It [the Soweto derby] exists because of sentimental reasons.
“Whoever is going to win the derby doesn’t make them achievers, because history has it that Sundowns is now the most dominant side in the country, and they have just surpassed Chiefs in terms of most trophies won in the PSL era.”