Why beating Libya would be a fresh start for Bafana coach Stuart Baxter

07 September 2018 - 15:58
By Marc Strydom in Durban
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter (R) in a discussion with his assistant Molefi Ntseki (L) during the national team's training session at Moses Mabhida Stadium on September 6 2018.
Image: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter (R) in a discussion with his assistant Molefi Ntseki (L) during the national team's training session at Moses Mabhida Stadium on September 6 2018.

For Stuart Baxter at a personal level‚ Bafana Bafana's crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Libya at Moses Mabhida Stadium is a chance to get back on the front foot in his rocky second tenure as coach.

Baxter‚ though‚ says his sole motivation for the match is to move closer to reaching Cameroon 2019.

Baxter returns to the scene of the 2-1 defeat against Cape Verde last year that effectively cost Bafana a place at the 2018 World Cup.

That defeat‚ which followed a 2-1 loss against the islanders days earlier‚ and the consequent failure to reach a World Cup for a second time as Bafana coach (the being in his first stint in 2004 and 2005)‚ has left Baxter largely backpedaling and combating skepticism since.

The match against Libya marks the beginning of a new four-year cycle that ultimately Safa hopes will culminate in qualification for the 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup.

For Baxter it can also be a fresh start.

"I think the two Cape Verde games‚ they colour what's happened drastically. I think they do‚" Baxter admitted.

"People will obviously find it difficult to put aside their disappointment about those two games‚ and look at the other games in the correct way.

"So yes‚ it [a win] would help me. But this is not about me. This is about taking South Africa to a major tournament.

"And I know‚ I've been in Sweden and other countries when they've qualified for a major tournament. And I was here during the World Cup and I've seen the effects that that [not qualifying] has.

"Now that is my motivation. The fact that people will or will not think that Stuart Baxter is flavour of the month if we win lose or draw this game - that for me is totally irrelevant.

"Because my major motivation is to give the people of this country a major tournament to be involved in. And then we can discuss the personal gains and benefits or kudos.

"But for me I've got no thoughts of that at this moment. Let's just win this game to move closer to what we want to achieve."

Baxter seems likely to partner Percy Tau and Bradley Grobler up-front.

Vincent Pule seems likely to be the one debutant on the wing‚ with Keagan Dolly the other wide player‚ and Kamohelo Mokotjo and Dean Furman the likely central midfield partnership.

Ramahlwe Mphahlele at right-back and Sifiso Hlanti at left-back seem likely to play outside of captain Thulani Hlatshwayo and Buhle Mkhwanazi in the defence‚ in front of goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune.