Bafana will face the Blue Sharks in their third encounter in Group D, having drawn to Burkina Faso in their opening fixture before beating Senegal at home in November last year.
Upon his return to the national team fold, Baxter’s first assignment was a tough 2019 AFCON qualifier against Nigeria in Uyo, where he managed to lead the team to a famous 2-0 victory in June.
With the COSAFA and CHAN qualifiers keeping the national team busy since then, Baxter was allowed to experiment with his selection as he gave young and fringe players an opportunity to don the Bafana colours.
Now, with two crucial fixtures just over two weeks away, the British tactician has named a strong 25-man squad void of any of his recent youngsters and has instead reopened the door to the likes of 34-year-old centre-back Gould.
Gould comes in for Kaizer Chiefs’ Lorenzo Gordinho and is one of four new faces from the last squad to face the Super Eagles, with Bradley Grobler, Thulani Serero and Daylon Claasen replacing Thamsanqa Gabuza, Aubrey Ngoma and Sibusiso Vilakazi respectively.
Baxter is adamant that calling up the no-nonsense SuperSport United defender ahead of a young, promising defender is not as bad as people are making it out to be, and has explained his logic.
“These two games are two World Cup qualifiers back-to-back, we’ve had Nigeria followed by a friendly international against Zambia, where we prioritised development in that game [in June],” explained Baxter.
“Therefore, in the [previous] squad, there were a lot of young players who we wanted to give that international experience to, [but] these two are World Cup qualifiers.
“If we get an injury we’re not thinking about development, we’re thinking about someone who has to go in with the experience and knowledge, and being in good enough form to carry the colours on their shoulders without capitulating.
“So with all due respect to the younger players, Morgan has been outstanding in the PSL at this time, and he’s won numerous man-of-the-match awards.
“I’ve coached him at SuperSport, I know his physical status is probably better now than when I was at Kaizer Chiefs with him, and so I’ve got absolutely no doubt at all that selecting Morgan is not a crime to bring back as some of your colleagues would have you believe – a cry to bring back the old guard.”
He added: “What this is, is saying that we have a soldier here that will go to battle for South Africa. In these two World Cup qualifiers we’re not talking in six months, 10 months or five years' time, we’re talking here and now.
“I think Morgan Gould is well equipped to do that, plus his experience in the dressing room at big occasions will be a massive help.”