Stuart Baxter wants to strike a balance between winning and seeing how ready are the players he took to Polokwane for the Cosafa Cup to graduate to the real Bafana Bafana.
The Bafana coach selected a relatively young but competitive squad for the tournament that determines the Kings of Southern Africa. That squad assembled in Johannesburg before departing to Polokwane where the Cosafa Cup will be staged from today until June 9.
Bafana will only start their campaign in the quarterfinals on Saturday against the winner of Group A. That will either be Comoros, Madagascar, Mozambique or Seychelles.
Baxter will keep a close eye on Seychelles as they are grouped with Bafana in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers. The British coach will be assisted by Molefi Ntseki in the Cosafa Cup while Thabo Senong attends a coaching course. Helman Mkhalele will be a part of the technical team but on “a learning expedition”.
“The Germans have a cut off, I am not sure if it’s the Under-15s or what it is,” Baxter said. “They say they are developing players to win (when they start until they are 15, and then from then on they say) winning to develop. It’s the same principle now. We talk about development, partnerships and blah blah blah. But at no point when it’s the senior level do you say that therefore the results aren’t important because results are important. When we play the games, I am going to be whipping the lads to ensure that they know the importance of it. The most important thing is to get information that will equip us to move forward. The important thing isn’t that we win 1-0 from a late penalty that was a mistake from the referee and we played rubbish and I didn’t get any information. We have to strike a balance between getting information and getting the results.”
Baxter continued, “I think that it’s an interesting squad, if we get some work done we will do well. We’ll probably play Zambia or Zimbabwe (in the semifinals). These teams have strong squads. If we can match them with the squad that we have, that augurs well for South Africa.”
The core of the squad that Baxter selected has international experience whether it’s from competing on the continent with their clubs, the junior national teams or being part of the experimental Bafana team that played in the Cosafa Cup last year and the African Nations Championship (Chan) qualifiers. Some of the players, like Innocent Maela, are in the team after doing well in the Four Nations tournament that was held in March in Zambia. Baxter is dangling a juicy carrot for players in this setup, promising them a place in the squad that will take on Libya in September in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers should they do well.
“It was the same in Zambia,” Baxter said. “Some of the players that we took there did exactly that. They put their hands up and said hey, don’t throw me back in the pool. I could be around for a while. This is going to be exactly the same. It would have been fantastic if we had a get together or a friendly with the squad that’s going to play in the Afcon qualifiers because I won’t have had them together since the Senegal match. But in lieu of not having that, this is the best thing we could be doing. And then hopefully some of these players here will enhance the Afcon squad.”
Bafana Cosafa Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Bruce Bvuma (Kaizer Chiefs), Reyaad Pieterse (SuperSport United) and Khulekani Kubheka (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Defenders: Siyabonga Ngezana (Kaizer Chiefs), Motjeka Madisha (Mamelodi Sundowns), Siyanda Xulu (Maritzburg United), Taariq Fielies (Cape Town City) and Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates)
Midfielders: Wiseman Meyiwa (Kaizer Chiefs), Siphesihle Ndlovu, Fortune Makaringe, Lebogang Maboe (Maritzburg United), Aubrey Modiba, Craig Webber (SuperSport United), Abednego Mosiatlhaga (Bidvest Wits) and Gift Links (Alassiouty Sport, Egypt)
Strikers: Gift Motupa (Baroka FC), Lyle Foster (Orlando Pirates), Ryan Moon (Kaizer Chiefs) and Luther Singh (SC Braga, Portugal)