Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter is expecting a big performance from his team against Libya. Photo:
DURBAN 
 The Storm clouds have gathered over this city, transforming the stifling heat of earlier in the week into a wintry, ominous landscape.

The skies are pregnant with apocalyptic possibility, and there is no telling what they will whip up for Bafana Bafana and visitors Libya come 3pm today.

Their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Group E qualifier has a familiar narrative about it. South Africa’s senior national side has a point to prove  to a temperamental audience and, crucially, to themselves  and their opponents have a platform to play the roguish role of party pooper.

Libya have day to day problems that are far more pressing than Bafana’s collection of European upstarts and local luminaries but, for 90 minutes this afternoon, they will look to pile on the pressure on Stuart Baxter and his charges.

Baxter, even in private exasperation, has tried to cut a relaxed figure all week, and has clearly tried to pass that spirit of Zen onto his squad.

“The week has gone quite well, after a dodgy start, if you want to call it that,” Baxter said ahead of his side’s final training session at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

“We had a bad final day before camp, with injuries and pull-outs. We started working with a smaller squad, and gradually filled up,” Baxter reminded.

"During all that, the players have shown a really good attitude.”

In amongst all that, Baxter and his medical team have had a drawn-out war of words with Strasbourg over their behaviour around striker Lebo Mothiba.

The French outfit signed the hitman on deadline day, just a week ago, and Baxter had already hinted at discontent around their behaviour on Monday. There was already an air of resignation about getting Mothiba over here for this clash. It hasn’t happened, but this won’t be the last of the matter.

For now, though, Baxter has his hands full with Libya, and the potential banana skin that they represent. This is another Cape Verde moment.

“You look at that sort of game, and they are dotted throughout our history, really,” the coach warned.

Bafana went a goal down in that game, and their composure went right away. It wasn’t a good look; certainly not at home against a team with their own limitations.

“Rabbits in headlights is a term that comes to mind,” Baxter lamented, as he challenged his current crop to have it within them to react better if confronted by something similar.

There is always the hope that every new campaign brings with it the resurgence of Bafana Bafana in the international fold.

The start to the 2018/19 domestic season, with goals and no shortage of creativity, has been encouraging.

But it is the strength of the flagship team that is the sure pulse of a nation’s football health.

Bafana have a lot going for them, with some young stars making a name locally and abroad, an experienced core, and a coach with a point to prove.

But, for all those ingredients, only a win will do today. The words of Libya’s coach might still serve as a handy motivation.

"Bafana have great quality, great midfielders - the best players in Africa, charmed. But no end product."

Today, a ruthless streak must be shown, and actions must speak infinitely louder than all the words spoken in the build-up.

In the gathering gloom of Durban and, perhaps, South African sport, Baxter and Bafana have a chance to provide a timely ray of sunshine.

Kick-off at Moses Mabhida Stadium is at 3pm, with coverage on SuperSport 4 and SABC 1.


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