Chiefs to persist with off-form Nurkovic

Baxter says no need to panic over striker

17 September 2021 - 07:10
By Sihle Ndebele
Kaizer Chiefs player Samir Nurkovic.
Image: Lefty Shivambu Kaizer Chiefs player Samir Nurkovic.

Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter has made a strong case for why he intends to keep using off-form striker Samir Nurkovic at left-wing.

Having last scored when his VAR-checked strike sank Moroccan giants Wydad Casablanca in the first leg of the CAF Champions League semifinals away in June, Nurkovic has been struggling to replicate the blistering form that endeared him to the Amakhosi faithful in the 2019/20 season, his maiden season in SA.

Since the start of the season, the 29-year-old Serbian striker has been mainly operating as a winger, with Baxter preferring to use Khama Billiat as a false No 9 instead. He has argued that Nurkovic is better suited to the advanced role on the left flank.

“We got him to more goalscoring positions from that [left wing] position than we’ve been getting [from him as an out-an-out striker]. I watched a lot of footage from last year... when he’s playing as an out-and-out No 9 he was lacking confidence... lacking getting to goalscoring positions,” Baxter argued.

“The fans are not interested too much in the false nines and the inverted full-backs... they’re not too interested in that. They want to see results and I think when a result is a disappointing one, a lot of questions are asked on how I set up the team.”

As Leonardo Castro is still healing in his home country of Colombia after a successful operation, Nurkovic is Chiefs’ only available natural striker. Even so, Baxter is satisfied with his striking department.

“In terms of the striking department, I don’t think you start to panic when you’ve created a lot of chances in two games and you’ve not converted them,” noted Baxter.

“If you’re creating a chance, that’s the first thing. Second thing is... do you have the composure to finish them? No, I think our striking department is quite well furnished at the moment.”

Chiefs host Royal AM at FNB Stadium tomorrow (5pm). While he maintained they won’t underestimate Royal, Baxter gave a sense he expects the KwaZulu-Natal side to deploy a defensive approach.

“We are going to make sure that we pay them full respect because it’s basically Celtic-driven, isn’t it?” he said, referring to Bloemfontein Celtic, whose top-flight status Royal bought. “I think we can see some similarities there and whether or not they want to play three at the back or four at the back or five at the back, I can’t control.”