Johannesburg – Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter insists he will continue to use his seven returning Bafana Bafana players for Amakhosi's upcoming run of fixtures.
Having relinquished top spot in the league standings following a goalless draw with Mamelodi Sundowns on Tuesday, Baxter said his side would need to bounce back against Free State Stars, who travel to FNB Stadium on Saturday.
Although Baxter said he was reluctant to play all seven players against the Brazilians, Itumeleng Khune, Siboniso Gaxa, Tsepo Masilela, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Bernard Parker and Lehlohonolo Majoro all took to the field in their midweek encounter.
“We've got Free State (Stars) coming to visit us and we needed the days to recuperate and then get as fresh as we can,” Baxter said ahead of the clash.
“The decision to throw all of the boys (Bafana players) in at the same time (against Sundowns), the rationale behind it was that I didn't want to give them any sort of space for an excuse.
“I don't want to tell them that they are tired. I want to say, 'if you think you can play tonight, you can play. If you don't think you can play, then you probably can't play'.
“But I didn't want to give them that little opening to feel sorry for themselves and say, 'well coach my legs are tired'.
“I wanted to play everybody, I didn't want to give anybody the feeling that this (Afcon) is going to take us a long time to get over.”
Orlando Pirates climbed to the top of the table for the first time this season with a 1-0 win over SuperSport United on Wednesday, but Baxter was adamant that he was fully focussed on his team's campaign, rather than concerning himself with what his fellow title-chasers were doing.
“To be honest to myself and the players, to be working out all of the different permutations Ä if we win and if they lose Ä
that's me with one eye somewhere else,” the Englishman said.
“I want to keep both eyes on what we do and that's basically what I want the players to do.
“We've got between now and the end of the season, and if we take more points than anybody else, then we win the league.”
The Buccaneers are one point ahead of Chiefs, but they could drop down to second once again, as Roger De Sa's team do not have a Premiership fixture this weekend, with the club preparing for a Caf Champions League preliminary round meeting with Comoran outfit Djabal Club at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Platinum Stars host Ajax Cape Town in Phokeng, Golden Arrows welcome AmaZulu to Umlazi, and Bloemfontein Celtic are at home against Wits at Free State Stadium.
On Sunday, Black Leopards travel to Cape Town to take on struggling Chippa United.
Maritzburg United were set to kick off the weekend action against Mamelodi Sundowns in Port Elizabeth on Friday night. – Sapa