JOHANNESBURG – Perhaps as a sign that there’s an incredibly large pool of players from which Stuart Baxter can build his new team, the Bafana Bafana coach had to answer more questions about the ones he’d left out of his 25-man squad than those he’d selected.
The omission of Siyanda Xulu, Thapelo Morena and Luvuyo Memela among others dominated the Q and A session with Baxter moments after he had announced the team to take on Zambia, Zimbabwe and Angola in the Four Nations tournament at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola next week.
“The door is certainly not closed,” the coach explained.
Baxter has said he is building a new team, where youth and experience will merge in an effort to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon and the World Cup in 2022, having failed to make it to this year’s event with the old guard.
“This is a big first step in making some big changes, attitude, perception and personnel. This is about development,” Baxter said of his selection.
“Some regulars won’t get to play, but this does not mean they are not for the future. I have sent texts to a lot of players to say the door is not close for any of them.
“We have our experience here, but that may change. I don’t want to close the door for the young players either.
“Morgan (Gould), Ronwen (Williams), Reyaad (Pieterse) and Clayton (Daniels) know that I am aware of their credentials, and that doesn’t go down the toilet.
“I hope they don’t feel they are not in my thoughts and that they are the ones to make way for the kids.”
Xulu at Maritzburg United, Morena at Mamelodi Sundowns and Memela for Orlando Pirates have been noticed by many, but there was some surprise when Baxter did not call them up on Tuesday morning.
“When I came back to SA, I was interest to see how Siyanda was doing. Mentally, he lost his way a little bit. That happens.
“It has happened to better players before. He has just started again to show the sort of potential I thought he had back then,” Baxter said of Xulu, who joined the Team of Choice as a free agent after being discarded by Chiefs.
“I don’t want to confuse him by picking him in the team. He is younger and he can play in a three-man defence, fullback and all that.
“I want him to carry on at his club, but we must let him keep working on it right now instead of making him think he has arrived.
“I wanted to have a look at (Daniel) Cardoso instead, who has done well at Chiefs. Xulu is going to be looked at down the road for sure.”
His reasons for not picking Morena and Memela were not as convincing.
“It was either him or Reeve (Frosler), who was at the World Cup with a junior team and would have been at the World Cup this year to learn, that’s more important.
“There are a lot of players in that category. Memela has been good for Pirates, but not for this fixture.
“I would have to leave out Teboho Mokoena or Ryan Moon to make space for him.”
Baxter has also asked Pirates assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena to join Bafana for the trip to Zambia to continue to learn.
Bafana Bafana Squad
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune, Darren Keet, Brandon Peterson.
Defenders: Reeve Frosler, Ramahlwe Mphahlele, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Motjeka Madisha, Daniel Cardoso, Buhle Mkhwanazi, Innocent Maela, Sifiso Hlanti.
Midfielders: Dean Furman, Siphesihle Ndlovu, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Teboho Mokoena, Bongani Zungu, Aubrey Modiba, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Thembinkosi Lorch, Keagan Dolly, Phakamani Mahlambi, Themba Zwane.
Strikers: Ryan Moon, Lebogang Mothiba, Percy Tau.