Cosafa Cup a chance to broaden Bafana’s scope

Na­tional coach says tour­na­ment will boost de­vel­op­ment of play­ers for fu­ture con­tests

The New Age (KwaZulu-Natal) - - Sport - Kgo­mot­sos@the­newage.co.za

KGO­MOTSO SETHUSHA

THIS is prob­a­bly one of the few times Bafana Bafana coach Stu­art Bax­ter has no un­due pressure or ex­pec­ta­tion weigh­ing heav­ily on him to win.

Af­ter all, win­ning the Cosafa Cup, which starts this week­end for South Africa, won’t rank among Bax­ter’s high­est am­bi­tions.

And fail­ure to defend the ti­tle Bafana won in Namibia last year is un­likely to trig­ger panic or wide­spread crit­i­cism for the Bri­tish coach or a Bafana Bafana side that is ex­per­i­men­tal in its design.

Bafana will open their Cosafa ac­count against the win­ner of Group A in the quar­ter­fi­nals at Royal Bafo­keng Sta­dium on Sun­day, hav­ing been given a bye in the group stages.

The Bafana coach was at pains to em­pha­sise his pri­or­i­ties go­ing into the tour­na­ment, mainly that the whole ex­er­cise was about widen­ing his pool of play­ers as he seeks to build strength in con­ti­nu­ity.

“We have to use Cosafa and Chan tour­na­ments to the ben­e­fit of SA foot­ball,” Bax­ter said.

“With all due re­spect, clubs at times don’t want to re­lease their play­ers and we have to bat­tle with them for play­ers. That cre­ates bad blood between clubs and the as­so­ci­a­tion and we end up putting to­gether a team that wins or doesn’t win.

“I’d like to think that in the de­vel­op­ment of play­ers this should be a part­ner­ship of clubs with Bafana Bafana’s needs.

“The Ger­man squad play­ing the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup is very sim­i­lar. We are go­ing down the same road, widen­ing the squad and deep­en­ing the pool of play­ers to se­lect from.”

The sig­nif­i­cance of win­ning in the eyes of South African foot­ball pub­lic, how­ever, can­not be lost on any coach who takes the job.

And Bax­ter knows bet­ter than most that the mem­o­rable vic­tory in Nige­ria may dis­ap­pear faster than a toupee in a hur­ri­cane.

“Ob­vi­ously, ev­ery time we put the South African shirt on we want to win, no ques­tion,” Bax­ter said.

“But there are other things that are im­por­tant to gain from this tour­na­ment and that is to do some­thing that’s go­ing to help the na­tional team go­ing for­ward. We don’t want to just play in the tour­na­ment, fin­ish where we fin­ish and then carry on as usual.

“So that’s the ba­sis of the ra­tio­nale be­hind the se­lec­tion of this squad.”

Bax­ter has ap­pointed Greece-based Lehl­o­gonolo Masalesa as cap­tain of the squad, hav­ing been im­pressed by his char­ac­ter, able author­ity and im­pres­sive ex­pe­ri­ence.

“They look up to him and see his qual­ity on the field. He’s got the right pres­ence to be cap­tain,” Bax­ter said.

PIC­TURE: GALLO IMAGES

PLAN­NING AHEAD: Bafana Bafana coach Stu­art Bax­ter.

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