• Why Bafana need to stick with Baxter

    Stuart Baxter of Bafana Bafana

    Regardless of Saturday’s result against Nigeria, and the outcome of the African Cup of Nations 2019 qualification campaign, the South African Football Association needs to stick with Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter. DEAN WORKMAN explores.

    Since readmission into international football in 1992, the South African men’s national football team have had 24 coaching appointments, with 17 different coaches taking charge over the 26-year period. After some early success in winning Afcon 1996 and qualifying for various World Cups, Bafana have severely underperformed over the last decade and have only qualified for two major tournaments.

    After every failure to qualify for a tournament, the man in charge is seemingly given the boot.

    This constant cycle of chopping and changing national team coaches has quite clearly stopped the progression of the side as every time a new manager comes in with his own philosophies and ideas, it takes the players some time to adjust. Yes, Bafana should be qualifying for major tournaments, but the man in charge needs time to build a team for the future and not just play for the here and now.

    That, in Baxter’s defence, is exactly what he is trying to do. The former Kaizer Chiefs coach has openly spoken about his ambition to break the cycle of prioritising immediate success over building a team who will be successful in the future while still performing now.

    Speaking in September after naming a youthful squad for the clash against Libya, Baxter said, ‘The average age is 26.4 and that shows we are bringing in young players and creating a new squad.’

    Percy Tau, Lebogang Mothiba, Keagan Dolly, Lebogang Maboe, Bongani Zungu, Siphesihle Ndlovu and Teboho Mokoena are all some of the players under the age of 26 who Baxter has looked to blood into the side.

    Failure to beat Nigeria at the FNB Stadium on Saturday will mean that Bafana will need at least a point away against Libya next year to qualify for the showpiece event in Cameroon. Baxter’s team should qualify for next year’s Afcon, but if they do fall at the last hurdle, Baxter needs to remain in the job and continue building up this young side with an eye on the next World Cup in 2022.

    Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

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