Stuart Baxter during his team announcement on Sunday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has urged casualties Ben Motshwari, Fortune Makaringe and Kermit Erasmus not to drop their heads after not making the cut for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Having assembled for camp this past week with his 26-man provisional squad, Baxter had to trim down his squad to only 23 players yesterday. However, that process followed after intense training sessions at Steyn City School in Fourways last week. Moreover, in order to make sure no stone was left unturned, Baxter’s men played a friendly match among themselves at Tuks Stadium on Saturday.

“I told the players that when we selected the provisional squad for the Afcon tournament, we hoped that they would see that as a massive boost for their future and careers,” Baxter said yesterday. “I’ve just spoken to Kermit about 10 minutes ago and I told him that he’s got his career back with Cape Town City.

Right up until the last day, he was within a good chance of making the list because he was very good. (But) I think that we are covered in those positions and I had to pick a couple of players that can make a double impact.”

Kermit Erasmus of Cape Town City during the 2019 Nedbank Cup Quarter Final match against Kaizer Chiefs in March. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Kermit Erasmus of Cape Town City during the 2019 Nedbank Cup Quarter Final match against Kaizer Chiefs in March. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

The South Africans head to the continental showpiece under scrappy conditions having failed to organise as many preparation matches as possible. Baxter’s team departs for Dubai today, where they will play a friendly match against Ghana this Saturday. From there, they will connect to Egypt and play another friendly against Angola on June 19 before kicking off their campaign against Ivory Coast on June 24.

“We would have liked one more games because we played an internal game yesterday,” Baxter explained. “It was good that we got an 11 versus 11 because there were some of the points that came out and of which we should address at training. But hopefully, we’ll do so before we meet Ghana.

It would have been nice if we had a friendly match here at home. I can’t say that I am not a little bit disappointed with that because I am. It would have be nice to have an interaction with our supporters and we’d know what we are working (towards) going forward.”

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Bafana are in Group D at the Afcon alongside Morocco, Ivory Coast and Namibia. Having had a scrappy qualifying process where they needed a draw in their last match against Libya, Bafana will need to be at their best in Egypt in order to progress to the knockout stages. But Baxter is optimistic that the squad he has assembled will give him a variety of options, having blended youth with experience.

“We’ve tried to put together a balanced squad that should give us options tactically,” he said. “I think the strength of the squad is the togetherness. It’s been difficult to achieve that balance because we lost a centre-back.”

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