Baxter afraid of Super Eagles

Coach Stuart Baxter (second right) during a training session with the Bafana Bafana…yesterday. PHOTO: THE SOWETAN.

Newly appointed Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter faces a tough baptism when he officially steps into the boiling and unpredictable cauldron that is Nigeria on Saturday, reports the Sowetan.

Baxter was appointed as Bafana Bafana coach last month and the tricky 2019 African Nations Cup showdown against the Nigerians will be the Briton’s first match in the Bafana dugout.

The new South African national team mentor could not have asked for a more challenging first assignment as Bafana have never beaten their old foes in an official match after years of trying.

Besides attempting to mastermind a maiden official win over the old enemy in a hostile environment‚ Baxter is also facing an injury headache that could force him to alter his plans before Bafana’s departure to Nigeria tomorrow afternoon.

Team doctor, Thulani Ngwenya announced yesterday that seven players arrived in camp on Sunday carrying an assortment of injuries that could give Baxter sleepless nights in the coming days.

Ngwenya confirmed that Lebogang Manyama (right knee injury)‚ Andile Jali (right groin injury)‚ Tokelo Rantie (right toe bone contusion and right knee injury)‚ Tiyani Mabunda (ankle sprain)‚ Aubrey Ngoma (groin injury)‚ Rivaldo Coetzee (hamstring injury) and Eric Mathoho (concussion) are all in the sick bay.

‘‘In terms of who is likely or not likely to play‚ it would not be fair for me to say right now‚” Ngwenya said.

‘‘For me‚ we will do our level best in terms of treating all of them and we will make the final call after the scans.

‘‘The two players that need to go for scans are Rivaldo and Rantie. But I can’t really say what is the likely outcome.”
Baxter admitted that it would be disastrous if some of the players end up going to hospital.

‘‘We are obviously hoping that they are all fit because they have just arrived in camp. It would be a minor disaster if people come to camp and then go straight to hospital.

‘‘I don’t think that is the idea of a call-up.”
Nigeria have been in camp since last month and Baxter is well aware that Bafana have got out of the starting blocks a lot later than their rivals.

‘‘We have got very little time (to prepare) in comparison to Nigeria’s three weeks in France in training camps. We have very little time and so we need to maximise (our training).

‘‘The reports I got from Nigeria (from his scout) is that offensively they are very strong‚ defensively they all work very hard.

‘‘They are on a good run of results‚ so they look very confident.

“So the way we are going to play is very‚ very much to try and be the biggest problem we can be‚ to be the nightmare that they do not want.

‘‘I think that sometimes it is about maybe not playing your best move but playing the move that your opponent doesn’t want.

‘‘So we are not fazed and we respect the Nigerians because they have quality in their team and they are on a long run of unbeaten games.

“But the meeting we had (on Sunday with the players) showed that we do not feel that we are just going there to make up the numbers. Far from it.”

Baxter acknowledged that his preparations have not gone the way he would have wanted‚ given that Bafana have to find a result away from home against tricky opponents who have had a longer time in camp.

‘‘What we have got is not 100 percent perfect and I hope going forward we will hit the spot better.

“None of that is meant as an excuse‚ that is just information we have got for you guys and we will do absolute whatever we can every minute we have got.”

The Bafana coach announced that BidVest Wits defender Thulani Hlatshwayo will captain the side going forward.

Baxter will be assisted by SA under-20 coach Thabo Senong‚ SA under-17 mentor Molefi Ntseki and his goalkeeper coach will be Alex Heredia.

•Culled from The Sowetan

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