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Why Bafana coach Baxter cancelled his team's light training session in Nigeria

By Marc Strydom | 2017-06-09 09:56:53.0

Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter cancelled his team’s light training session at the outer fields of the match venue on Thursday afternoon ahead of Saturday’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria in Uyo.

With the journey from Johannesburg‚ flying at 3pm on Wednesday from Johannesburg to Lagos‚ and overnight stay there‚ then flight on Thursday to Uyo having involved several delays‚ Baxter opted for a set-play training session near the team hotel to restore his players’ freshness.

Bafana arrived almost two hours late at their Meridien Hotel in Uyo‚ only to have delays checking into their rooms because of booking problems.

The hotel is about a 45-minute bus ride from the match venue‚ the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium.

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“I think the journey’s been of that nature that there have been delays everywhere‚” Baxter said.

“People have been standing around‚ and on their feet for 40 minutes more than we expected all over the place.

“We had to get up earlier than expected (on Thursday morning)‚ and we were stuck in traffic. And that’s all adding up.

“All of that means that we got in very late.

“And after the few trainings we had in Jo’burg‚ with the great energy and enthusiasm we showed there‚ I don’t want to dampen that by taking players 45 minutes on a bus‚ then doing a light session that really is not going to affect the game.

Heavy police presence in Uyo for Bafana's away Afcon qualifier against Nigeria

“It’s 2% that it might.

“We need to do our set plays. And we can do that on a field with some goalposts closer to the hotel.

“So I decided not to put the boys on the bus for 40 minutes. Not to be the centre of attention by coaching out at the stadium‚ and thinking that’s great.

“The players need to be given a chance to have a right go at Nigeria. And that’s going to take a lot of energy.

“We’re going to go and do our set plays in private‚ do the swimming pool to recuperate‚ and we’ll have a good meeting tonight where we’ll go through our set plays again.

“I think that gives the players a good pre-match training tomorrow where we can go through our gameplan.

“And then there will be a few smiling faces instead of being long faces and tired legs.”

Bafana woke up earlier than expected in Lagos on Thursday morning due to a change in scheduling of their flight to Uyo‚ then sat waiting at the hotel for busses to arrive.

They waited again for some time at the airport to board their flight.

Including the waiting at OR Tambo International Airport for their flight to Lagos‚ it has made for a gruelling stop-start journey that saw them arrive 24 hours later at their hotel in Uyo at just before 3pm Nigerian time.