Baxter backs off-form Chiefs defender

Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has defended his selection of Kaizer Chiefs defender Ramahlwe Mphahlele in the Africa Cup of Nations squad.

Mphahlele’s inclusion in the final 23-man squad headed for Egypt has left many questioning and lamenting Baxter’s selection headed into the big stage that is AFCON.

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The Chiefs right-back has not been up to par for his club in recent times, and also struggled with injury midway through the recent season but managed to retain his place in the national squad alongside Cape Town City’s Thamsanqa Mkhize.

Though admitting that the 29-year-old has been out of sorts, Baxter believes his international experience carries more weight than an on-form full-back who’s had little to none national team experience.

“Rama hasn’t played, and he’s not been convincing, he’s not been Rama for a while,” conceded Baxter.

“But, he has potentially more experience, and he has potentially a bigger game in him than, let’s say, a less-experienced full-back and a less-educated full-back that’s played every game for his club.

“So, I’m hoping that Rama – and he’s been showing signs of it – will start to come to life with the national team.”

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The British tactician did, however, hint that Mkhize could be his first-choice option down the right-hand-side, acknowledging that the Citizens’ skipper “the best in the country.”

“Thami [Mkhize] is for me the best right-back in the country. Both in his experience [and quality],” he stressed.

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