Stuart Baxter's return to Kaizer Chiefs would shake up SA football
There is an ever-increasing possibility that Stuart Baxter will leave his post as coach of South Africa and return to club management with Kaizer Chiefs, providing a significant shake-up to football in the country.
Baxter secured two league titles in three seasons with Chiefs between 2012 and 2015, and since then the club has won nothing, the longest barren run in the team's illustrious 48-year history.
His return would no doubt be lauded by fans of Amakhosi, despite the fact he is by no means the team's top choice, with their disastrous search for a new boss now entering a third month.
Football manager Bobby Motaung told SABC Radio that the club has already had their top three choices "snatched" from them by other clubs, and with the new season set to start in a little over a month, they are becoming ever more desperate.
Assistant coach Patrick Mabedi led the side at the tail-end of last season and has continued in that role in the early part of pre-season, but with every day that passes as we head towards the new campaign, so uncertainty grows.
For Chiefs, right now, Baxter is a top appointment. They need stability and structure in what has been a chaotic few months for the side.
He knows many of the players like Itumeleng Khune, Siphiwe Tshabalala and Bernard Parker well, and knows the inner workings of the club. He will know what they do well and what challenges he will face, and he will understand his working relationship with Motaung who, for better or worse, is very much the face of recruitment and first team affairs.
Baxter is someone who can slip into the role with ease, know the environment at Kaizer Chiefs Village from day one, and push on quickly with plans for the new season.
To bring in someone from the outside now is much more of a gamble, and they will perhaps take time to adjust that the club and their increasingly frustrated fans are loathe to give.
Another big plus is that Baxter knows the league and knows the opponents, not just from his time at Chiefs, but also his successful spell with SuperSport United that followed an all too brief spell in Turkey.
Had Chiefs found a coach towards the end of last season, this would be less of a factor, but their current predicament makes this more of a must.
For Baxter it is seemingly a case of jumping ship with Bafana Bafana before he is pushed, if reports over general unhappiness with his results at national team level are to be believed.
His second tenure in charge of the national side has been a roller-coaster ride, with some excellent results spoiled, ultimately, by a failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.
It was not even the back-to-back losses to a very good Senegal side, but rather the twin defeats to Cape Verde that have really shaped public opinion against him.
But he also engineered an excellent 2-0 win in Nigeria at the start of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Cup (Afcon) qualifiers, and has blooded a number of new young players for the national team -- including Chiefs youth graduates Siyabonga Ngezana, Wiseman Meyiwa and Bruce Bvuma, and last season's rising star Ryan Moon.
Calls for his head now are folly, having given him the time to build up towards the resumption of the Afcon qualifiers in September, but South African football does not always conform to conventional logic.
It is probably also a good time for SAFA to make a change if they are going to, with two-and-a-half months to Bafana's next game at least giving an incoming coach a little breathing space.
The wisdom of Baxter's exit would also be viewed in history by the person brought on board to replace him.
Carlos Queiroz is likely to exit his post as Iran coach after the World Cup and is a favourite of SAFA president Danny Jordaan, though he comes with a hefty price-tag.
So too Herve Renard, who has hinted he may not continue with Morocco, though the team's good showing in the World Cup, despite their first round exit, may draw European interest in him.
Could the time be right for Gavin Hunt to leave Bidvest Wits and take up a national team role, or what of newly-appointed Bloemfontein Celtic coach Steve Komphela, who was so close to the job in 2012 when Gordon Igesund was given it?
Pitso Mosimane is perhaps the only other viable local candidate, but he seems committed to Mamelodi Sundowns, unless you start looking at options such as Free State Stars' Belgian coach Luc Eymael, or Milutin 'Micho' Sredojevic at Orlando Pirates. The latter may be difficult to prise away from his current job.
At the moment this is all speculation, but there is the whiff of change in the air and if South African football has taught us anything down the years, it is to expect the unexpected.