Bax­ter won’t be fazed by crit­i­cism, as long as he gets the job done

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - MAZOLA MOLEFE

“DE­SPITE what peo­ple think, you can do lit­tle from the bench.”

With these words Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Bax­ter em­pha­sised his be­lief that he’d done enough in pre­par­ing for his first of­fi­cial match, a 2019 Africa Cup of Na­tions qual­i­fier away to Nige­ria tonight ( 6pm SA time) at the Godswill Ak­pabio In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium here in Uyo.

By his own ad­mis­sion, there is a bit of anx­i­ety given the stern test ex­pected from the Su­per Ea­gles and the fact that Bax­ter will im­me­di­ately come un­der fire from fans should the re­sult not go in Bafana’s favour.

“If you are lucky, you can cap­ture one thing from the bench, but that is un­usual,” said the coach, speak­ing at the team ho­tel be­fore his side’s fi­nal train­ing ses­sion yes­ter­day. “Half-time is an op­por­tu­nity and then you try keep push­ing that in the sec­ond half. We have spo­ken about be­ing brave, not back­ing off and sit­ting back wait­ing for them. If it doesn’t go well, do we panic and think they are bet­ter than we thought? Re­act­ing and adapt­ing is also be­ing brave. I am try­ing to talk to the play­ers about not feel­ing in­fe­rior. If we go a goal up, we play. If we go a goal down, we play. Both those sit­u­a­tions can put us on the back foot.”

Bax­ter knows the fickle South African fans won’t want too many ex­pla­na­tions should Nige­ria con­tinue their dom­i­nance over Bafana. He feels, how­ever, that he is more pre­pared than he was in 2004 when he walked onto the pitch as na­tional team coach in his first spell in a 2006 World Cup qual­i­fier against Cape Verde in Bloem­fontein.

“I had been three months in the job and had two camps and no friendly games. We luck­ily won 2-1, but I don’t think we played well,” Bax­ter re­called. “I do re­flect on that and what I re­flected on is that how did I pre­pare my­self ? What did I have to know? I thought I knew quite a lot be­cause I’d done a lot of study­ing and read a lot on South Africa. Hav­ing gone on that road then com­ing back years later at (Kaizer) Chiefs and Su­perS­port (United), I prob- ably wasn’t as well pre­pared as I thought. But go­ing into this game (against Nige­ria), I hon­estly don’t think I could have done more than I have done now. And if I did do more I would have been do­ing the play­ers a dis­ser­vice be­cause I would be throw­ing so much at them all at once in such a short space of time. I would be dis­turb­ing them rather than help­ing them. I will be ner­vous de­spite the fact that I have stood in front of 100 000 peo­ple in a derby in Cologne, Ger­many and in all my ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Bax­ter will not be fazed by crit­i­cism should tonight go hor­ri­bly wrong.

“I shouldn’t worry about what some­one walk­ing out of the she­been says on Twit­ter. The prob­lem is that if that be­comes an is­sue for me, the only re­sult is that South Africa have a coach that isn’t do­ing his job. What peo­ple say won’t worry me one bit,” the coach ex­plained.

“I have to make sure I tick all the boxes so that the risks we take to­day, and go­ing for­ward, are higher. De­spite what peo­ple think, you can do lit­tle from the bench.”

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