SuperSport United coach Stuart Baxter Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix
CAPE TOWN – SuperSport United coach Stuart Baxter could be set to take charge of the South African national team 12 years after his first spell as Bafana Bafana boss.

The Bafana head coach position has been vacant since last December after the South African Football Association (SAFA) found Shakes Mashaba guilty of gross misconduct, gross insubordination and violation of the association's communications policy.

With vital World Cup and African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers on the horizon, SAFA had been hoping to bring in a big-name international coach, with the likes of former Bafana boss Carlos Queiroz (who subsequently became the Real Madrid manager) and two-time AFCON-winning coach Herve Renard seemingly amongst the front-runners for the position.

But Queiroz has not been able to get out of his contract with the Iran national team, while Renard's salary demands, and the fact that he reportedly wants to bring in a large technical team of up to seven members, have apparently also ruled out the Frenchman. 

With options and time running out, SAFA are now setting their sights on Baxter, according to reports on a couple of prominent local football websites, which claim to have inside information on the matter.

Baxter's first spell as Bafana coach was between May 2004 and November 2005, during which time the national team won 10 and lost seven of 23 matches and failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.

Since then however the Englishman's star has risen substantially in this country, in large part due to his success as head coach of Kaizer Chiefs, with whom he won the league title twice in three seasons.

And his record since taking over at SuperSport in January 2016 has also been exceptional – the 63-year-old guided the Pretoria club to the Nedbank Cup title last season while in the current campaign, his side are on an unbeaten run of 19 league matches are a very serious contenders for the title. 

Were SAFA to prise Baxter away from Matsatsantsa, the Tshwane club would surely be looking for substantial financial compensation.

The association are already facing a potentially big payout to Mashaba, who has an ongoing arbitration hearing at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

The hearing was supposed to be wrapped up last week Thursday – the same time Bafana were expected to be announcing their new head coach, but has now been extended to next month. Mashaba is fighting for compensation or full reinstatement as Bafana boss – should he get a payout it could equate to a cool R6 million – 12 months' worth of his salary.

In the interim, Owen da Gama has been brought in as a caretaker national team coach and last week named his squad for upcoming friendly matches against Guinea Bissau and Angola later this month.

African News Agency