Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter wants to restore Bafana's reputation after a less than ideal COSAFA Cup. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Stuart Baxter is asking for a bit more room for trial and error as he works on a formula to restore Bafana Bafana’s battered reputation.

The national team coach made this plea after the national team’s 3-0 victory over Botswana in the Plate final of the Cosafa Cup in Polokwane - a consolation trophy following their shock defeat to Madagascar on penalties a week ago in the tournament proper.

Baxter, came under heavy scrutiny then as many felt losing to their lowly Southern Africa counterparts was unforgivable.

“We don’t get it (the good reputation) back by frightening the coach each time, thinking he is going to get the sack because he lost on penalties to Madagascar. Then no coach ever becomes creative,” said Baxter, whose next big assignment is the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Libya and Seychelles at home in September and October, respectively.

The Scotsman had selected a youthful side for the Cosafa Cup and had said he would use the annual competition to find alternatives ahead of those two important qualifiers.

Due to their failure to book a place at the World Cup in Russia this month, there has been a lack of friendly matches to prepare for the Afcon qualifiers. The Cosafa Cup was the only form of preparation, but there was an outcry when Baxter and his men went down against Madagascar following the penalty shoot-out.

However, the coach insists his project needs the backing from everyone whose interest is to see Bafana, the 1996 African champions, succeed.

“I am going to say I will stick my job on the line and play with the kids here against teams that would love to knock us over, but everyone is waiting with their pens for me to lose and then I am down, then which coach is going to take the responsibility to see Lyle Foster getting game time?

“I don’t know how we get the brand back, but we don’t get it back if we don’t get on the same bus,” Baxter explained.

“I will stay until I think I can’t affect it. If I can’t affect the progress I will jump and someone else comes in. Sweden played Denmark in a World Cup warm up game, totally boring game which ended 0-0. And the team was booed off the field. The papers were united saying what the hell are you booing for? I can just imagine that situation here. I don’t think the media would have gone out in any sort of defence for the team.

“We grab at negativity, and maybe it sells better. I don’t think the media finds any positives.”

He gives another example.

“Germany have not won a game since they qualified (for the World Cup), culminating in losing 2-1 at home to Austria, their old rivals. But no one has batted an eyelid. I am guessing that the Germany brand is a lot stronger than ours at the moment, so I get that point.

“But we’ve all got to be united in how we get our reputation back.”

Baxter is then likely to continue with rebuilding a young team that can ultimately take Bafana to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. But qualification for next year’s Afcon is a necessary step for progress.

Sunday Independent

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