South Africa coach Stuart Baxter has big decisions to make before Tuesday night’s home leg of their Russia 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Cape Verde.
“I have to ask myself if I give those players who have revenge on their minds another chance or if I simply ring the changes,” said the Bafana Bafana coach in his postmortem of his side’s abysmal performance in the 2-1 defeat away to Cape Verde on Friday night.
Bafana host the same side in Durban this week.
Now that Group D of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers is wide open after the shock result at the Estadio Nacional de Cabo Verde, Baxter knows he must react.
“I asked (assistant coaches) Quinton (Fortune) and Thabo (Senong) whether we switch it up. They have been chomping at the bit and it is up to me to decide,” said Baxter.
“We know we have to get a new centre-back after Tower’s (Mulomowandau Mathoho) sending off. It’s never easy to have a man sent off and you’ve got to replace him.
“I can’t understand why the referee didn’t send their player off when he comes and pushes one of ours in the face and gets there close as if he wants to fight him. But those are not reasons why we lost, they are a bit excuse-like,” Baxter elaborated.
Bafana are certainly under pressure now to qualify from Group D having envisioned they would come unstuck in Praia against the hosts, who had lost both their opening games away to Senegal in October last year and in their own backyard against Burkina Faso a month later.
Another tough “switch it up” scenario could be in goal, where Ronwen Williams again came under fire from fans, who would have preferred the international experience of Wayne Sandilands in the absence of Itumeleng Khune.
“Look, Ronwen nearly pulled off a fantastic save off the penalty,” said Baxter.
“He had one back pass in which he took a dodgy first touch in the first half. Apart from that his kicking was good and he has come out for a couple of crosses.
“He will be disappointed in letting in two goals - one took a massive deflection and the other was a penalty.
“You can put Buffon (Italy goalkeeper) in goals and he lets in a penalty and a deflection (and) no one says anything. But then people revisit Ronwen because of the past.”
The coach admitted that the poor result didn’t help his young keeper either.
“I said to him he’s got to show people it’s his time. I said he’s not showed his best. I didn’t think that was a game where he could show his best. Did he have a shot (to save)? I don’t think so.”
The reaction to the defeat against a side that’s bottom of the group, and one Bafana hadn’t lost to in three previous outings, was expected.
“If there’s a backlash then they (the players) have got to take it and respond,” Baxter explained.
“If it’s of disappointment then I understand that. If it’s a backlash that is unwarranted then I would defend them.
“Out of disappointment they are going to get some stick and I will also get some stick. That is because the people are passionate.
“But again there we need to have reasons and not look for excuses. People don’t take excuses.
“If I were to come here and say it was the referee, well, he didn’t make it easy for us, and maybe he has even given them a penalty that wasn’t.
“But if we showed composure in that period in the first half, then we would have probably won the game.”
Cool heads - which is what Mathoho didn’t have when he needlessly hacked an opponent in the opposition half not long after the hour mark, inviting the referee to send him for an early shower - are a must on Tuesday in the home leg.
And Baxter knows his fledgling tenure will be under a dark cloud if there is a repeat of the shambles in Praia.