Johannesburg - Kaizer Chiefs skipper Itumeleng Khune says Stuart Baxter’s decision to stick with a consistent starting line-up has put the Soweto giants in a dominant position early in the season.
Amakhosi became the first team since Mamelodi Sundowns in 2010 to win four out of four opening league games and the Soweto outfit already enjoyed a seven point margin over fierce rivals Orlando Pirates and eight over defending league champions, Mamelodi Sundowns.
Heading into Saturday’s tricky encounter against SuperSport United at FNB Stadium, Khune praised Baxter for resisting the urge to chop-and-change his first XI.
“You can’t fix something that’s not broken. The team’s been doing very well, even the players that are not making the XI, they’re working hard at training,” Khune said ahead of Saturday’s meeting in Johannesburg.
“They’re pushing the ones that are making the first XI week in and week out. We have healthy competition and it’s nice at the same time.”
Baxter is yet to make a single change to his starting line-up after four Premiership games and has named six identical line-ups in seven outings, both in league and cup competitions.
The only time Baxter did tinker with his team was in the second-leg semi-final of the MTN8, where Chiefs already had a 2-0 advantage over Platinum Stars.
Even then, Baxter resisted the urge to make wholesale changes and only made two, opting to hand a handful of players a rest in anticipation of a busy schedule in the upcoming weeks.
The decision paid off. Mandla Masango, a replacement for the injured Siphiwe Tshabalala before the start of the season, had earned a call-up to the national team thanks to his performances in all seven games for Chiefs.
Masango was joined by Erick Mathoho and Khune himself in Shakes Mashaba’s squad to face Sudan and Nigeria in crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers next week.
“You need your team-mates to make you look good and I think we’ve all been pulling our weight. We’re happy they’re (Bafana call-ups) doing well for themselves. We made those players shine,” Khune said.
Following this weekend’s list of fixtures, the Premiership will take a two-week break as international matches take centre stage and Khune admitted the break could prove to be a hurdle in maintaining Chiefs’ rich vein of form.
“It’s going to be tough. We’re going into a two week break so when we come back, it’s always been difficult for clubs to find their feet,” he said.
“Players are going on national duty and when they come back the coaches need to start from scratch to put the team together so that we can gel as a team.
“It will all depend on the attitude of individuals. We have a goal to achieve as a team, so if we put our individual differences aside and focus on the job at hand, we can come back very strong.”
In Saturday’s other fixtures, Pirates will look for a second consecutive league win when they travel to Polokwane City, while Free State Stars host Maritzburg United in the afternoon.
Later Saturday, Mpumalanga Black Aces welcome the University of Pretoria to Mbombela Stadium at the same time as the Chiefs game.
On Sunday, Mamelodi Sundowns, still smarting from their horror 3-0 defeat to Pirates midweek, entertain AmaZulu, and Platinum Stars are at home to Bloemfontein Celtic.