Baxter keeping his mind open for his final Bafana 23 for Afcon

05 June 2019 - 16:57 By Marc Strydom
South Africa head coach Stuart Baxter speaks to the players during the South African national men's soccer team training session at Steyn City School on June 05, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
South Africa head coach Stuart Baxter speaks to the players during the South African national men's soccer team training session at Steyn City School on June 05, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Stuart Baxter is keeping his mind open for his final 23 who will make up his Bafana Bafana's Africa Cup of Nations squad and the Briton says some final decisions will be made on Saturday night‚ on the eve of a squad announcement on Sunday.

The 27-man national team squad taking part in a pre-Egypt 2019 training camp have had their share of niggling post-2018-19 season niggling injuries.

Apart from Keagan Dolly being ruled out of the Nations Cup‚ Kamohelo Mokotjo sat out Wednesday’s training‚ but assured the media it was just a precaution.

Kermit Erasmus sat out the morning Tuesday session‚ and Thulani Serero that afternoon’s training‚ as players have struggled with tightness of muscles coming back from their short breaks at the conclusion of their various seasons.

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Baxter said the initial three days’ training have been largely about bringing everyone to the same levels of fitness.

Bafana’s sessions are likely to increase in intensity towards a training match – likely to be internal‚ as no opponents have been successfully confirmed – on Saturday.

Baxter will announce his squad on Sunday‚ and the team depart for a second camp in Dubai on Monday.

The Bafana coach is still coming to a final conclusion on a number of positions‚ he said.

“I’m trying to have an open mind. We’ve got the issues that we’ve got‚” Baxter said.

“I think I know – because you can’t go with five right-backs and one centreback – in which positions we’ve got to cut.

“But I’m having an open mind until the last minute so that we don’t do anybody a disservice.”

The coach was asked if there had been signs of nerves from some of the newer call-ups.

“Probably the opposite.

"The feeling I’ve had is that the new ones are going in saying‚ ‘What the heck’. They seem to have less pressure on them‚” Baxter responded.

“Ben [Motshwari] has done quite nicely‚ ‘Mak’ [Fortune Makaringe] has done quite nicely. It’s not as if it’s 100 percent clear that I’ll look at them and they’re way off the pace.

“I want to give everybody a chance to put their hand up properly. We’ll have an internal game on Saturday if we don’t get any opposition.

"If we get opposition then everybody will play 45 minutes.

“And then I’ll make my decision based on that.”

Baxter indicated that a second friendly international once Bafana arrive in Egypt is finally near conclusion.

“We’re going to play Ghana on June 15 [in Dubai]‚ and we’re going to play Angola in Egypt on June 19‚” the coach said.

“We need more than two games‚ really. But that’s what we can get.”

Bafana are drawn with Ivory Coast‚ who they open their tournament against in Cairo on Monday‚ June 24; Morocco and Namibia in Group D at Egypt 2019.

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