Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter wants to blood young players at the Cosafa Cup in Polokwane‚ but he also wants to win matches‚ and preferably the tournament.
Baxter‚ in contrast to last year‚ has managed to have the majority of the youth-emphasised squad he wanted at the Cosafa.
The coach recognises that success at a regional level in the tournament for Southern African nations is a starting point to winning at a higher level.
Last year’s Cosafa Cup was treated as a huge irritation by Baxter.
The coach had just completed a juggling act finishing his contract with SuperSport United with beating Nigeria in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers.
Then he was pitched into running around to clubs to beg for players or the Cosafa and qualifiers for the African Nations Championship (Chan)‚ in the midst of preparing to resume Bafana’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
In the end it was poorly handled.
South Africa took a squad to the Cosafa in Rustenburg that contained mostly players who held very little potential to play for the national team again‚ making it a pointless exercise.
Bafana lost their first match 1-0 against Tanzania‚ then beat Botswana and Namibia in the Plate.
Did the noise and negative energy play a role in the World Cup qualifying campaign then going pear-shaped?
At this Cosafa Baxter has some exciting young players who can put themselves forward as future prospects‚ or even in the shorter term when Bafana resume their Afcon qualifiers against Libya in September.
Already‚ at a four nations tournament won by Bafana in Zambia in March Lille striker Lebo Mothiba put his name forward as a potential Afcon performer.
Mothiba is not at this Cosafa and Baxter will hope players such as Maritzburg United’s Siphesihle Ndlovu and Lebohang Maboe step up as he looks to select a stronger‚ but still youth-emphasised‚ squad for the Afcon.
“That period last year was extremely difficult to have a strategy‚” Baxter said.
“This feels like we’ve put in place some principals that we want. And I’m sure that if we throw up three or four names from this process‚ from Zambia and this‚ then that is the route we should go.
“The Germans say: ‘Developing to win‚ winning to develop’. And it’s the same principal now.
“We talk about development and partnerships and so on‚ but at no point at senior level do you say that the results are not important‚ because they are.
“In the Cosafa games I’m going to be whipping the lads to make sure that they know the importance of it.
“After the fact the most important thing is that we’ve gained the information that will equip us to move forward.
“But I do think 100% it’s an interesting squad. And I think if we get some work done I think we can do well.
“We’ll probably be playing Zambia and Zimbabwe‚ with very strong teams. And‚ with the squad that we have‚ if we can match up against them it augurs really well for South Africa.”
Madagascar put themselves in poll position in Group A with a 2-1 opening win against Mozambique at Old Peter Mokaba Stadum on Sunday‚ with Seychelles and Comoros drawing 1-1.
* Marc Strydom is in Polokwane as a guest of Cosafa