JOHANNESBURG - With insiders at the South African Football Association (Safa) confident that Stuart Baxter will be announced as the new Bafana Bafana coach this week, his current club, Premiership title chasers SuperSport United, have asked for a speedy conclusion to negotiations.
The Tshwane outfit confirmed last Thursday that Baxter had been given permission to speak to Safa about the vacant post.
“Nothing has been finalised yet,” said SuperSport chief executive Stan Matthews yesterday. “We have asked for a conclusion by Friday because we cannot have this go on for longer. It can have some serious repercussions to our plans this season. We can’t hold Stuart back if he feels he wants to take the opportunity, but we need to be prepared for life after him.”
Safa began the search for a coach in February - two months after Shakes Mashaba was fired for gross misconduct, insubordination and violating his employers’ communication policy following an ill-advised outburst at his bosses shortly after Bafana beat Senegal 2-1 in a 2018 World Cup qualifier in November.
Baxter had been linked to the job much earlier, but Safa denied he was on the shortlist of ideal candidates as they unsuccessfully courted Carlos Queiroz, Herve Renard and Hugo Broos, until SuperSport confirmed last week that the country’s football mother-body had asked to speak to the former Kaizer Chiefs coach.
“We are still not prepared to allow him to go before the end of the season because that will hurt us. We have big league games coming up and we want to be the first team to retain the Nedbank Cup and could go all the way in the CAF Confederation Cup,” said Matthews.
He added that he was happy with the manner in which Safa have gone about the process to entice Baxter to consider a second spell (he coached Bafana between 2004 and 2005) with the national team.
“It is not the first time they come in for one of us,” Matthews explained. “When they wanted Pitso (Mosimane) all those years ago, he went. They asked for Thomas Madigage to assist Gordon Igesund and he went. When Gavin Hunt was still our coach they asked if he could come in for an interview for the Bafana job and he went. So we are not unhappy, but of course this can be a period of uncertainty, which is why we would have this wrapped up quickly.”
The coach still has one and a half years remaining on his contract with SuperSport after he was appointed in January last year and won the Nedbank Cup four months later. It is likely Safa would pay compensation if Baxter jumps ship.
Meanwhile Baxter’s agent dismissed claims that the coach wants his son, Lee, to be the national team goalkeeper coach.
A weekend report suggested that Baxter, who will be in the dugout tonight when SuperSport face KwaDukuza United in the last 16 of the Nedbank Cup at the Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium, would only succeed Shakes Mashaba if his would be employers agreed for him to bring his son and fitness trainer Joshua Smith, along.
“He can’t make such demands when he hasn’t even been given the job yet,” said Steve Kapelushnik, who is representing Baxter.