Cosafa Cup balancing act for Stuart Baxter

Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has an exciting Cosafa Cup squad to choose from.
Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has an exciting Cosafa Cup squad to choose from.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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 youthful squad he wanted at the tournament.

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.

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.

At a four-nations tournament in Zambia in March that Bafana won, Lille striker Lebo Mothiba already put his name forward as a potential Nations Cup performer.

Mothiba is not at this Cosafa Cup and Baxter will hope players such as Maritzburg United's Siphesihle Ndlovu and Lebohang Maboe step up as he looks to select a stronger squad for the Afcon that still has an emphasis on youth.

"That period last year was extremely difficult to have a strategy," Baxter said. "This feels like we've put in place some principles that we want. And I'm sure that if we throw up three or four names from this process - from Zambia and this [Cosafa Cup] - then that is the route we should go.

"We talk about development and partnerships and so on, but at no point at senior level do you say 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.

"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 pole position in Group A with a 2-1 win against Mozambique, with Seychelles and Comoros drawing 1-1. SA will meet the group winners in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

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