No mandate for Stuart Baxter at 2019 Africa Cup of Nations
Jubilant scenes greeted Bafana Bafana when they arrived at OR Tambo Airport on Tuesday after qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and coach Stuart Baxter was further boosted by the SA Football Association's (Safa) declaration that the Briton would not be burdened with a mandate at the continental event in Egypt in June.
Safa vice-president Ria Ledwaba said Baxter's only mandate was to qualify for the biennial tournament but as far as the showpiece itself is concerned‚ the Briton and his players have not been asked to set targets at the competition.
“We are not going to say we don’t want to win the tournament‚” said Ledwaba after the team’s arrival on Tuesday morning.
“I’m sure all South Africans want to see the team being in the final and they want to see them bringing back the trophy.
“That will be good for South Africa but we are not going to put any kind of mandate to say ‘go to the final’.
“We have qualified for Egypt and the team must go there and make South Africans proud.
"We believe with the performance that we’ve seen in Tunisia‚ they can go there and make us proud.”
Bafana earned their ticket to Egypt after beating Libya 2-1 in Sfax‚ Tunisia‚ on Sunday with Percy Tau scoring a superb brace.
Tau was not the only star performer on the night as goalkeeper Darren Keet made numerous stunning saves to deny the North Africans from qualifying as group runners-up behind Nigeria.
“The mandate was to qualify for Egypt and Stuart has done that‚” said Ledwaba.
“Remember for the first time there’s going to be 24 countries in the Afcon and so South Africa must go there and not just to add to the numbers.
“We’ve got a very good team and we expect them to go there and participate‚ and make the country proud.”
Bafana won the continental title as hosts in 1996‚ finished as runners-up in 1998 and third in 2000.
But they have struggled to make a remarkable impact since then and failed to qualify for the 2010‚ 2012 and 2017 editions.
Ledwaba said the burden of expectation could be too much for some players in Egypt and they would not put them under pressure by setting targets.
Bafana bombed out in the first round of the Afcon when they last qualified in 2015 under former coach Shakes Mashaba but Safa took a decision to retain the mentor after that tournament.
The Safa officials eventually got tired of Mashaba's tantrums and sacked him in the midst of what was a good campaign to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Baxter was given a five-year contract when he took over in June 2017 but didn't cover himself in glory either when his team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.