Stuart Baxter reveals Bafana Bafana’s preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt

Stuart Baxter (coach) of Bafana Bafana during the South African national soccer team press conference at SAFA House on May 02, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Stuart Baxter (coach) of Bafana Bafana during the South African national soccer team press conference at SAFA House on May 02, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

Stuart Baxter has laid out his roadmap for Bafana Bafana’s preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt in June and July.

Baxter plans a squad of fringe players‚ and players with a chance of selection‚ to participate in the Cosafa Cup in Durban as an effective trial in early June.

Concurrently‚ assembling in Johannesburg just after that‚ will be an 18-man squad of the core of his team – including Mamelodi Sundowns’ players‚ who might arrive late if they reach the Caf Champions League final on May 31‚ and late-arriving European-based players.

Baxter will initially train the Cosafa team‚ then leave them in the hands of assistant-coach Molefi Ntseki‚ and depart to take over the Joburg squad‚ who will play a friendly in Gauteng.

The two streams will amalgamate into a final squad after the Cosafa Cup and travel to Dubai‚ which is apparently mildly hotter than Egypt’s mid-summer‚ for heat acclimatisation and a friendly against Ghana.

Baxter said SA’s Cosafa squad will comprise “some new faces‚ some with past experience who we have already invested some international time in”.

“And we’ve tried to leave 10 – though it might be only seven or eight – Afcon places up for grabs‚ so that the players at Cosafa know there are places available‚" he said.

“There were some quarters who wanted us to use Cosafa solely as preparation for Afcon. On many levels that fails.”

The coach said his objectives in the weeks between the end of various players’ conclusions to their league seasons and Afcon is “to ensure that all players are recuperated properly both pre‚ during and in-between events”.

“The players are coming off their seasons staggered‚” he said.

“For example‚ a Bidvest Wits player will finish on May 12 [at the end of the PSL]‚ a Kaizer Chiefs player will finish on May 19 [after the Nedbank Cup final]‚ and a Sundowns player might finish on the 31st.

“So you if you say we will meet up on the 25th‚ you’ll be without Sundowns’ players and the Chiefs players will only have had six days’ rest.”

Baxter said using Cosafa as preparation for Afcon would have meant “calling about 41 players” to the tournament‚ because of the staggered nature of the finishing games.

“A basic rest of 10 days has been allocated for recuperation‚” the coach said.

“Some players who have not played as much [in the season] would probably get less. Sundowns’ players might get a bit more.

“We’re going to play against teams at Cosafa who we’ll again meet at Afcon [Namibia are in SA’s group‚ and Zimbabwe‚ Madagascar and Angola have qualified]‚ and they won’t field their strongest team and would enjoy being physical with our lads.

“So again it fails [taking a full-strength team] in its unreasonable thinking.”

Some of the staggered league ends are Ligue 1 in France on May 25‚ Belgium (May 20)‚ Netherlands (May 15)‚ the English Championship (May 5‚ but some players might go to playoffs)‚ plus there is a possibility of playoffs for some PSL players.

“At the same time as the start of Cosafa‚ probably a few days later‚ we’ll assemble an approximately 18-man squad in Joburg and await the late arrivals from France or Sundowns‚” Baxter said.

“We’ll hopefully play one international friendly on that camp‚ and that will bring all the players up to speed.

“Then we’ll join the Cosafa group with the Joburg group‚ move onto Dubai for our heat acclimatisation and a dress rehearsal.”

Egypt 2019 runs from June 21 to July 19. South Africa’s first match is against Ivory Coast in Cairo on June 24.

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