Let’s use minor tourneys for our good, Stu
STUART BAXTER would love to see the country’s attitude towards ‘lowly’ tournaments such as the Cosafa Cup and the CHAN change for the better.
And the Bafana Bafana coach is hopeful that the team’s progression to the next round of the latter event, courtesy of their 3-0 aggregate win over Botswana at the weekend, will help in this regard.
“I think the people have had an apathetic view of the Cosafa and the CHAN. But where does it fit? “the coach asked after Bafana’s 1-0 second leg win over the Zebras at Moruleng Stadium. “We have never really placed it anywhere in our program, But we are trying to create a place for it. What we have tried to do now is to say let’s put it somewhere where it serves South African football.” That service, as Baxter,
showed through the two-legged clash with South Africa’s neighbours, is to provide a platform for young players to gain the necessary experience that will stand them in good stead as they grow into fully-fledged internationals participating in qualifiers and finals of major tournaments.
“So we are not just picking a random squad every time we play. We said let’s rather use it so that when these boys get up they will have ore experienced heads. And I think it is working well for the future,” the coach explained.
He was particularly pleased at how the younger and new players he gave a run in the two legs fared.
“If you look at the younger ones that I knew little about, Sandile Mthethwa has been impressive; Sipho Mbule came in and gave a very mature performance, but I knew him from SuperSport United. Tyan Mooh has done well and could have also scored more goals. We also have Jamie Webber.”
The key though will be for Safa to keep these young players in the system instead of letting them fall by the wayside as in previous years.
And with the squad progressing in this competition, Baxter has the chance to have a closer look at the players for two more matches. Next up for Bafana will be Zambia, who hammered Swaziland 7-0 overall. The South Africans will host the first leg on the weekend of August 11, 12, 13 with the return leg scheduled for the next weekend in Zambia.
“The younger ones have thrown their hats in the ring, but are they ready now? No, they are not. But we have Zambia now and the young ones will get a couple of international games. A few of them threw their hats in the ring, for example, (Siphelele) Ntshangase is a very talented player that I didn’t know too much about, who I thought: can he move up a level? Can he defend? Can he understand coaching, and he answered me and said ‘yes I can’. He did a good job. A player like him put his hands up a little bit and said: ‘hey just remember me for the future, keep an eye out for me’, which I will.”
Of course not all was perfect and Baxter knows he still has a lot of work on his hands before these youngsters are the finished product. But at least there is some light and it is thanks to the competitions the country previously viewed with some disregard.