JOHANNESBURG - More than 15 months after he was appointed Bafana Bafana coach, Stuart Baxter is still bouncing from one assistant coach to another.
Yesterday he said the hold-up was due to budget constraints at the South African Football Association as well as the difficulty of landing an ideal candidate to be his right-hand man.
Baxter seemed keen on former Bafana and Manchester United player Quinton Fortune, who was part of the technical team at some of the World Cup qualifiers last year. But it is believed there were deadlocks in negotiations.
Thabo Senong has continued in his capacity as a member of Baxter’s technical team and was in the same role under Shakes Mashaba, who was replaced by the Scotsman more than a year ago. But Senong, who is also in charge of the under-20 side, is seen more as a third assistant than Baxter’s No.2.
“We do have challenges there,” Baxter revealed while naming his 22-man squad for next week’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Libya in Durban. “Some people we recommended, but the process has not been as easy as it should be. We’ve had budget issues and we couldn’t throw the net out. But it is up to Safa to sift through my recommendations and for the decision to be made later - maybe after these qualifiers.”
Baxter was also recently embarrassed by a breakdown in communication between the federation and Orlando Pirates, who were asked to release their assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena to join the national team camp in Zambia during the Four Nations tournament back in March.
Mokwena was withdrawn from the traveling party on the eve of the competition, Pirates citing a busy domestic league schedule, while Baxter was honest enough to admit their request was not properly communicated. It is perhaps another reason for the delay in Baxter finally having a full complement with regards to his backroom staff.
“It’s not easy to just take anyone from the (PSL) clubs,” the coach said. “We don’t have a budget like Cameroon, who recently brought in Clarence Seedorf as coach and Patrick Kluivert as his assistant. But yes we need to nail it down as soon as possible.”
For the home game against Libya, and quite possibly for the rest of the Afcon qualification, Baxter will have Senong and under-17 coach Molefi Ntseki in the dugout. But the fact is they are not his preferred sounding boards. "It is not easy to negotiate with someone who may actually want to be somewhere else, that is part of the reason why this is taking a bit long,” Baxter said.