Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter got off to a dream start by beating Nigeria, but there is still a long way to go.
He could not have asked for a better start than an away victory that saw him make history as the first Bafana coach to inflict such pain on the Super Eagles in an official game.
Although it is still early, the future looks bright and the signs are promising.
Baxter managed to instil a sense of self-belief in the players in only four training sessions.
As a result, they showed renewed energy ahead of the opening CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Baxter is a good planner and does his homework thoroughly.
When he announced the squad for the game, he already knew what to expect from the Super Eagles as he had intelligence reports on their camp in Europe.
He pays full attention to detail and this yielded positive results.
Baxter has already opened talks with local coaches in an effort to bridge the gap that existed before.
This, he says, is to get to understand players better to get the best out of them.
He says their coaches know and understand them better and they can give him insight into their game.
He consults his assistants to get their input in everything he does. He also gets the players’ buy-in so that they understand his thinking.
After being told that it would take approximately 45 minutes one-way to and from training for their game against Nigeria, Baxter called three of his senior players – captain Thulani Hlatshwayo, Itumeleng Khune and Dean Furman – to get their input on whether the amount of travelling for a 45-minute training session was worth it.
After agreeing it was not, they decided to conduct their training sessions on an open field at the hotel, to stretch and go through set-pieces.
After the session, everyone retired to their rooms without much drama.
Before the game, Baxter knew exactly what Nigeria’s game plan was going to be.
His sessions were geared towards exposing their weaknesses at the back.
He was confident that they would get a result and his confidence rubbed off on the players, who also believed they could do it.
A positive outlook
All these are signs of good things to come, but Baxter and his team should not get carried away as the job is not yet done.
Baxter needs to build on this victory and not get ahead of himself.
However, so far, everything points to a bright future.