Stuart Baxter takes charge during a recent training session. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix

Stuart Baxter is hoping to get a more competitive Bafana Bafana squad reporting for duty leading up to their 2018 African Nations Championship (Chan) second-round first-leg qualifier against Botswana in an away clash this coming Friday.

Not that the Bafana coach wasn’t impressed with the current group of players, who beat Namibia 1-0 in the Cosafa Plate final on Friday. In fact Baxter was most pleased with how his youngsters managed to absorb his instructions and implement them.

The Scotsman, however, added that he was hoping to rope more experienced players into his squad to help them progress in the qualifying phase, which might prove to be more challenging compared to the Cosafa tournament just completed.

“We decided as the FA (Safa) to try and get at least something out of both the Cosafa and Chan tournaments,” Baxter said.

“And it’s a challenge because both tournaments are played outside of the Fifa dates, so we can’t just take players (from PSL teams) for the senior national team.

“Chan (comes when) most teams are going through a pre-season,” Baxter added. “Some clubs such as SuperSport (United) will be on holiday, and we are hoping to get players like the young and experienced Teboho Mokoena in the Bafana squad.

“The lad has more experience compared to the group of players we had here (for the Cosafa tournament). I’m hoping to get Cole Alexander back as well.

“We are going to freshen up a bit, and chances are we are going to start all over again in terms of getting the information into the players' heads. But I do believe that it’s going to be a decent squad.”

Baxter added there were a whole lot of positives which came out of the tournament, adding that the players handled themselves quite well in the three matches they played in the tournament. But he was disappointed that they couldn’t successfully defend their Cosafa Cup title.

“This week, all in all, has given me a whole lot of information,” Baxter said. “We can’t be happy that we didn’t win the whole thing though. But all information is useful.

“You never lose. It’s either you win or learn. And that’s what happened in our first game against Tanzania.

“The second one, which was against Botswana, was a very physical one and they knew they really had to step up. Even though our game in the final against Namibia was not like that, it was still a hard-fought win for us.

“I wanted them to experience that kind of play. I do believe that we’ve gathered some very useful information from that whole experience.”

A slowish start in the Namibia tussle had been concerning, although matters improved.

“I was disappointed with our start of that game,” Baxter said.

“I do believe that they started livelier than we did. I challenged my team to play in three different systems throughout this tournament. We played the 4-2-3-1 formation in our first game, then the 4-3-3 in our second and moved into the 4-4-2 one in our third and last game.

“I wanted to challenge my players. And in (Friday night’s) game, it took us a while before we started playing with our two strikers up front and supporting them properly.

“However, once we started doing that, we started playing really well as a unit. We missed out on a whole lot of chances in our transition play because we were not calm enough. We almost paid a price for it because Namibia continued applying the pressure up front. I wanted to expose them to that. All in all, I really do believe that they (Bafana players) performed and handled the pressure quite well thoughout.”

IOL Sport 

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