26 May 2018 – Bafana Bafana have held their first training in Polokwane ahead of the 2018 COSAFA Cup tournament, which kicks off today (Sunday, 27 May 2018) at the Old Peter Mokaba Stadium.
All the players have reported for national team duty and the squad arrived in the province on Saturday, 26 May.
In the absence of his assistant, Thabo Senong, who is due to leave for Holland to attend a coaching course, Bafana Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter will be assisted by Amajimbos head coach Molefi Ntseki. Amajita assistant coach Helman Mkhalele has also been brought in as an observer, where he is also expected to learn.
“One of the things we wanted to implement going forward is that one of the younger coaches will be invited to attend the camp, no so much to be an assistant coach but will do so for his own development. We wanted to start that with Rhulani Mokwena from Orlando Pirates but it never materialised, so we decided to look within the organisation as a start. Hopefully every camp going forward there will such an arrangement with other coaches,” said Baxter.
“As for Ntseki, he has been working very well with the U17s and he also knows the younger players as well.”
All the players reported for national team duty on the first day, something that pleased Baxter and has commended the clubs for their co-operation.
The Bafana Bafana mentor recalled the same period last year when he had to prepare a squad for the COSAFA CUP, the CHAN qualifiers as well as the World Cup qualifiers.
“I have to commend the clubs, they have been very excellent. Seeing that we are trying to make this strategy and not just a ‘lets get a few players and go play’ type of arrangement, they have been very accommodative. And they have respected us for taking the route we took. The squad that we have is a very balanced one and it’s all thanks to the clubs,” added Baxter.
“Last year was a nightmare, and it was extremely difficult to have a strategy. You had to shoot from the hip. This feels like we are putting in place some principles that we want. I think it’s important that we look at this as a good partnership with the clubs and the national team in terms of developing players, it is very important for South African Football.”
The Bafana Bafana mentor says they need to make good use of the COSAFA CUP tournament. South Africa was last in competitive action in December 2017 when they faced Senegal in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
“It is important to get results, but it is equally important that we get as much information as we can to move forward. We have an interesting squad and if we can prepare well I think we can do well, and hopefully after this we can enhance the squad for the upcoming AFCON qualifiers,” said Baxter.
“The squad there will be massively different as it will reflect that we are in the process of changing the guard, but the starting eleven may not be hugely different.”
South Africa will not be in action in Polokwane until their quarterfinal clash on Sunday, 3 June when they face the winners of Group A. As one of the seeded teams, Bafana Bafana received a bye in the first round.
Madagascar, Mozambique, Comoros and Seychelles are in Group A, while Botswana, Angola, Mauritius and Malawi make up Group B.
The final takes place on Sunday, 9 June at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium.