JOHANNESBURG - While the domestic season gets underway with the MTN8 this weekend, the Buffalo City Stadium in East London will host a low key international fixture between Bafana Bafana and Zambia in the first leg of the African Nations Championships (CHAN) qualifier.
It’s a match that has invited contrasting reactions from the two coaches in South Africa’s Stuart Baxter and Chipolopolo’s Wedson Nyirenda - the former making it clear it’s a game he would have rather delegated to his assistant while he focused on an upcoming World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde, while the latter has revenge on his mind after Bafana knocked out Zambia in a qualifier for this very tournament in 2011.
Baxter has also had to beg for players, which has made his preparation for this match a nuisance.
Nyirenda on the other hand has been able to assemble pretty much the same side that beat Bafana 2-1 in a friendly match in Phokeng two months ago.
This current Bafana team is made up of reserve league and National First Division players and Chipolopolo have the cream of the crop from their domestic league.
“I except a tough game,” said the Bafana coach. “But I’ve got to be comfortable because this is the reality and we have the players we’ve got.
"Some of them we know a lot better than others. We have got to turn this into a unit that can go on and win the game.
"You can’t compare the two sides because there are a lot of players that have come in and others that have come out.
"Zambia is a strong team and we are going to have our hands full - even on our own patch.”
The second leg will be played next weekend in Ndola and Baxter said he again expected as many as eight players to withdraw because PSL clubs begin their league campaign.
The winner over the two legs will qualify for the CHAN tournament next year.
“These lads are hungry to do well and this is not about them not being good enough, but rather about them having their chance,” said Baxter.
“They can take on board what we want to do and give a performance. And a couple of them have put their hand up a little bit and said ‘hey, coach just keep an eye out on me’.
"They want to leave the camp with the coach thinking they are not that bad. Lets just keep that pot bubbling.”