The team may change, but the attitude remains the same. With these words Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter confirmed he will again change his team for the return leg of their African Nations Championships (Chan) qualifier against Botswana.
So far it’s been the story of Baxter’s life, the Brit having to do with the players he could get his hands on. As seen with the Cosafa Cup squad, Baxter travelled to Francistown with a Bafana team consisting of players who don’t necessarily play regularly at club level. And he may field a different team to the one which edged Botswana 2-0 away at the weekend.
The emphasis, however, remains on the development of the senior team, with the expansion of the pool of players the main priority for Baxter. He pointed out that his selections are not a sign of disrespect for the tournaments of lesser stature such as the Chan and recently concluded Cosafa Cup finals. “We have a lot of respect for the Chan tournament, just like we had for the Cosafa Cup, but South Africa and that is no disrespect to anyone, is using this event more as a development tournament,” Baxter said.
“If we’d lost on Saturday, the main point of the event for us would have been to try to give international experience to players like Teboho Mokoena and introduce Cole Alexander as well as Jamie Webber to the team. In that way, hopefully it will serve South African football.” Baxter’s faith in peripheral players was swiftly repaid as Ryan Moon and Gift Motupa delivered the two goals to secure victory.
Since he joined Kaizer Chiefs last season, Moon has hardly played, but showed some maturity as he peeled off the defence and rammed home past keeper Mwapule Masule at Francistown Stadium. In truth, Baxter has had to make do with what he can as clubs are hard at work during pre-season and reluctant to release players. This could necessitate changes to the team which won in Botswana for the second leg.
On their return home, Bafana will head to Rustenburg to set up camp for the return match at Moruleng Stadium. “Every time they put on the national team jersey I want them to win,” Baxter said.
“We will change the team and may also change the formation. But we won’t change the attitude that every time you put on the jersey you should try to win. In that way, they will hopefully get developed.”