An inexperienced Bafana squad were unable to defend their Cosafa Cup crown earlier this month as they finished the tournament as Plate victors, yet easily overcame their next hurdle in a 2-0 CHAN qualifying first leg victory over Botswana.
Owing to players’ club commitments, the timing of the matches and nature of the tournaments being played, Baxter has explained his choices in his selected squads.
“It’s a challenge for us to assemble squads that are well balanced and that serve some useful purpose, and we made a commitment to having a combination of young players and then more experienced players that we think have something more to offer in terms of supporting the young ones, and/or knocking on the door,” he told Safa. “We didn’t go out and make a call up to 50 players who all withdrew. We tried to find two squads that serve our game.
“So Cosafa went ok, we had a younger squad, a little more experimental – on a scale of 1-10 I would give it 6 or 7. We weren't delighted, but we weren’t disappointed either.
“Now the transition to CHAN is a quite difficult because it’s a completely new squad, and so we went to Botswana on the back of a few training sessions and I was really impressed by how the players applied themselves.
"They played in a well-organised way, knowing the game plan and executing it pretty well – but not great because as a South African national team we could show more skill, especially on transition and in being clinical to make a 2-0 victory a 5-0 one, we could have done that. But we are pleased with the 2-0 win.”
Baxter says he’s sticking by his mandate of believing in young players, and is confident results won’t take a hit as a result.
“We are going to stay committed to our rationale that we are going to give international experience to more players, get some young players on the field and at the same time win the game,” he said.”There will be changes, and we will change the way we are going to play as well. We are going to challenge the squad by playing in a different way and we will see how it goes.
“Does that mean we don’t care about the results, absolutely not. We are desperate to win and go through because there are a few of these players who see an opportunity to play in another couple of fixtures. The players have been applying themselves very well and it’s been an interesting camp so far.”
The CHAN qualifying return leg against Botswana is set for Saturday, with kick-off set for 15:00 at Moruleng Stadium.