Soon, Stuart Baxter may soon be given Claudio Ranieri’s old nickname: the ‘Tinkerman’.
But while some of the changes so far for Bafana Bafana have been necessary and welcomed, other selection decisions just haven’t made sense at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Like Ronwen Williams starting ahead of Darren Keet in the opener against Ivory Coast – and then Keet reclaiming the goalkeeper berth against Namibia, despite Williams’ excellent display.
Baxter totally rejigged his midfield for the Namibia clash after a lacklustre performance against the Ivorians, following Dean Furman’s injury, as Hlompho Kekana and Bongani Zungu came in for Furman and Kamohelo Mokotjo.
Sibusiso Vilakazi also replaced Lebohang Maboe.
But after the 1-0 win over the Brave Warriors, where even Percy Tau was moved to the left in the second half instead of operating behind front-man striker Lebo Mothiba, the Bafana coach has said he could make further changes to the starting XI for Monday’s crucial clash against Morocco.
“We changed some players; Dean Furman was injured, so he would not play and then we were really trying to balance our midfield play by having Bongani (Zungu) and Hlompho Kekana and we gave Kamohelo Mokotjo a rest,” Baxter told the Safa website.
“On Darren Keet, we decided before the Ivory Coast game that he will play this game. We thought this game suits him and Sibusiso Vilakazi played because I thought he did well when he came in the Ivory Coast game.
“So, we changed the team because we thought it was proper for this opponent, and I can’t promise I am not going to change the team for the last game because the last game is going to be a tactical duel.
“It is going to be one where we have to really, really work hard, and some fresh legs would be a good choice.”
Will they be the right ones, though?
Once again, the midfield didn’t quite fire against Namibia. The creative touch of Keagan Dolly is being sorely missed, and although Mokotjo was supposed to be the man to ‘put his foot on the ball’ against Ivory Coast, he wasn’t able to make things happen.
Back to business for Bafana Bafana pic.twitter.com/aBRpoLtLDu— Bafana Bafana (@BafanaBafana) June 29, 2019
Kekana and Zungu tried hard, and Vilakazi run at the defence a few times, but there wasn’t much penetration on attack against Namibia either.
So, will Baxter turn to someone like Thulani Serero, who has the silky touches to unlock defences?
Also, Tau was at his best in the final quarter against Namibia as he ran at the defence from a slightly wider and deeper position, so hopefully Baxter will utilise him in similar fashion against Morocco.
And, what to do about Mothiba? He has a good record for his French Ligue 1 club RC Strasbourg, but his first touch and finishing has let him down in Cairo.
The big Lars Veldwijk is an option as a target-man, while Thembinkosi Lorch could also provide a spark on attack from midfield.
Bafana just need a point, though, to advance to the last-16 as one of the best third-placed teams, which could see Baxter close up shop.
“Every game in this group has been close, so I don’t think they (Morocco) will be expecting an easy game, and I hope we don’t disappoint,” Baxter said.@ashfakmohamed