Stuart Baxter explains why he wanted to bring Rulani Mokwena to Bafana
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter is happy to finally have a technical staff approaching something like his own image as the team prepare to meet Seychelles in Saturday’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at FNB Stadium.
Baxter has roped in former striker Shaun Bartlett as his second assistant-coach – to add to South Africa Under-17 coach Molefi Ntseki – for the back-to-back qualifiers against Seychelles‚ where Bafana also travel to the Indian Ocean islands for Tuesday’s second match.
Former University of Pretoria and Lamontville Golden Arrows coach Bartlett is still not permanent‚ and the Seychelles matches appear to be a form of trial to see if he fits.
But Bartlett’s arrival this week certainly seemed to give Baxter a technical staff – which also includes the head coach’s former conditioning trainer Joshua Smith‚ and goalkeeper-coach Andre Arendse – that can fit with Baxter’s philosophy.
Bartlett was a loyal playing servant to Baxter in the coach’s previous stint as Bafana coach in 2004 and 2005.
“All roads lead to Rome‚ I suppose.
"It’s taken a long time‚ and it’s been if-ing and but-ing and it’s been backwards and forwards‚” Baxter said of his technical staff finally showing some form of finality since his appointment 20 months ago.
“What I would like is to have people in the technical staff who others can identify with. I was interested to introduce a Rulani [Mokwena‚ Orlando Pirates' assistant-coach]‚ not to steal him from his club but to introduce him [to international football].
“And I think with Shaun and Andre‚ people can identify with them. I want them to be qualified and I want that to be a great example.
“And‚ yeah‚ they are people who I can work with. And so we are getting there. But it does take a while because there are a lot of other considerations.”
Some of Baxter’s failure to appoint a second assistant-coach is self-inflicted.
The coach experimented with Quinton Fortune as an assistant who could be based in Europe and South Africa last year‚ and report back on overseas-based players.
The move was unpopular with the public‚ as Fortune had often turned his back on the national team as a player‚ and backfired.
Bartlett‚ Bafana’s second-top all-time scorer with 28 goals‚ and a 1996 Africa Cup of Nations-winner‚ was a loyal servant to the national team as a player and has more coaching experience than Fortune.
What seems clear is that any form of stability in the Bafana technical team‚ which has also seen SA U-20 coach Thabo Senong apparently withdraw his services as an assistant‚ appears crucial for Baxter as qualification for the Cameroon 2019 Afcon grows nearer.