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Opinion: Baxter triggered by this development at Bafana to change personnel at Chiefs?

Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos' decision on one of the Kaizer Chiefs players could have influenced Amakhosi coach Stuart Baxter into finally heeding the call by the club's supporters.

Baxter has developed the habit of stubbornly sticking with players who have been underperforming at the club, despite results not going his way.

After a disastrous campaign last season, where Chiefs finished in eighth place in the DStv Premiership by the skin of their teeth, many were expecting Baxter to ring the changes at the back and relegate Eric Mathoho and Daniel Cardoso to bench, following the signing of Njabulo Ngcobo and Thabani Dube.

However, Baxter persisted with an aging central-defence partnership that always included Mathoho and Cardoso, even if sometimes he employed a three-man central defence system and that combination cost them a lot of points, as they went into the international break with only one win under their belt after six matches. 

After some criticism, the former Bafana Bafana coach fitted Ngcobo in defensive midfield (after he was played briefly in that role by Broos), avoiding to take out either Mathoho or Cardoso in the line-up.

Dube, who partnered Ngcobo in central defence to help Bafana win the 2021 COSAFA Cup was in the previous Bafana teams, despite his lack of game time at Chiefs.

However, the former Richards Bay defender was excluded from the recent Bafana squad that played back-to-back 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Ethiopia and that was a wake up call to up his game at Chiefs.

"That [being left out] was a motivation for me to work even harder so that I can be called to the next Bafana Bafana camp," Dube told Kaizer Chiefs' media team. "It was a motivation. I have to work hard to be in the national team, I have to work hard to play in the national team," Dube was quoted as saying by Kickoff.

The 28-year old left-footed defender certainly caught the attention of Baxter during the international break, as the Briton eventually dropped Cardoso in the first match after the FIFA break against Chippa United and brought in Dube, as Amakhosi kept a cleansheet in a resounding 4-0 win over the Chilli Boys.

Baxter initially gave Dube his first start against Mamelodi Sundowns in the league, throwing him in the deep in, without dropping either Mathoho or Cardoso and Dube was exposed, as Sundowns hammered Chiefs 3-0.

The key to Dube performing well is not making him a bit part player, shadowing Mathoho or Cardoso in a three-man central defence but it's to give him the responsibility to command his area, like he did against Chippa, without Cardoso and maybe his hard work will be noticed by Broos again.

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Bafana Bafana Baxter Chiefs Mathoho Njabulo Ngcobo


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