JOHANNESBURG – Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter yesterday revealed he’d picked his 20-man Cosafa Cup squad hoping to find alternatives for the national team’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at home against Libya.
“Maybe there are a couple we wanted here (the Cosafa Cup is being hosted in Polokwane, but not under the Fifa calendar), but what is happening is that we are giving ourselves some alternatives. I am guessing there are a few who are going to be in the Afcon squad in September because we have started this transformation of the team with the trip to Zambia (in March) and we have given others who were very good another chance to get more caps under their belts,” Baxter explained.
Bafana don’t yet know Sunday’s opponents in the Cosafa Cup having received a bye in the first round of the competition as a seeded team.
But this hasn’t stopped Baxter from plotting the way forward.
“This is an ambitious and promising group. They are diligent and we are working on giving them a bit of structure.
I will encourage that they should put their signature on the playing style as well. I have never had a week for preparation with any national team anywhere in the world, but this is also a bad time for SA players to be selected - we have no chance in getting a full team like I have seen with Zimbabwe here,” he said.
“But I told the players they are not here by default, but by design this time around, which is also a little bit unusual for Cosafa because we know how it usually pans out (clubs are not obliged to release players outside the Fifa calendar).”
Baxter singled out leftback Innocent Maela and Siphesihle Ndlovu as two players knocking hard on the door to be included in more crucial national team games in future - like the 2019 Afcon qualifiers later this year.
“Ndlovu did okay in the Four Nations and he has looked good in training. If he gets a couple of games here then I think he is going to be a candidate for the (Afcon) squad. Maybe there are others, like Innocent Maela,” the coach said.
“We took him (Maela) to the Cosafa one year ago and he was at Thanda (Royal Zulu, in the National First Division), and on the back of his performances for us he went to Orlando Pirates. Last year he was galloping up and down the line. Now he is playing and affecting the game.
This does have a positive effect on their development. I am hoping the rest get a kick from this as well.”