Key players buoyed by win in Nigeria reluctant to step down for friendly
Stuart Baxter tried to release some senior personnel who did duty in Saturday’s famous win against Nigeria for today’s friendly against Zambia – but the players were having none of it, he said. Arriving back at OR Tambo International Airport at 5am yesterday from their 2-0 Africa Cup of Nations victory in Uyo on Saturday, an exhausted Bafana boarded a bus for Rustenburg to begin preparing to meet Zambia at Moruleng Stadium.
The off-season friendly so soon after a tough qualifier against Nigeria, which involved almost 24 hours of travel to Uyo via Lagos, and 18 hours back, has resulted in grumbles from players.
Baxter had said he planned to release perhaps even all of his starting XI who earned South Africa a first-ever competitive victory against the Super Ea- gles, and potentially make late calls to some young players.
But he said on arrival back in the country that the players did not want to leave.
“We’ve looked at the concept of releasing players. It’s stranded because no one wants to leave the squad,” the coach said.
“We may call an extra one player, because we do have a few injuries.
“Keagan Dolly obviously can’t play. ‘Tower’ [Mulomowandau Mathoho] is a bit doubtful with his shoulder. I think Dean Furman needs a rest after coming back from the Congo [with SuperSport United last weekend] and then doing this trip.
“So we do have a few walking wounded, but they don’t want to leave the squad. “So that was good news. That’s nice.” Baxter is still likely to give most of his starting XI from Uyo a break. That means travelling squad members who did not get a run, such as Darren Keet, Abbubaker Mobara, Lorenzo Gordinho, Sifiso Hlanti, Lebogang Phiri and Thamsanqa Gabuza, seem likely to start against Chipololopolo.
Baxter said the Zambia game was a chance for these players to stake a claim for a first team place.
“Look, I’ll be asking a few questions. This is a new game,” the coach said. “If we’ve got new foot soldiers out there then they’ve got to carry the battle to Zambia the same way the lads did in Nigeria.”
Almost certain to be rested along with Furman is Mamelodi Sundowns’ left-back Tebogo Langerman, who was also involved in continental club football last weekend.
In the coach’s first game in his second tenure‚ Bafana were unsurprisingly not cohesive in the first half against Nigeria.
Bafana had four days’ training under their new coach‚ Nigeria had been on a threeweek camp in France.
Still‚ South Africa had the best chance of the half‚ when Nigeria goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi fumbled Tebogo Langerman’s cross and Themba Zwane hit the upright.
Baxter said that‚ and a movement when Dolly could not get a shot away‚ were rare instances where Bafana’s attacking game plan came together in the half.
Bafana’s opening goal came from an overlapping run and cross by right-back Ramahlwe Mphahlele‚ headed in by Tokelo Rantie in the 56th minute.
Zwane hit the post again from a fine buildup‚ then substitute Percy Tau caught Nigeria on the counter-attack from an SA corner for the second in the 80th.