Johannesburg - Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter’s plan to rope in youngsters and give them experience has been met with scepticism.
While the reaction to his squad selection was more about the players who did not make the cut, his decision to enlist the services of Orlando Pirates assistant coach Rhulani Mokwena has also not gone down well with the club after it emerged that they were not informed of the move.
Baxter has always stressed the importance of having a close working relationships with clubs, but now finds himself in the firing line as the timing of Mokwena’s selection has been questioned.
It is still not clear whether Pirates will allow Mokwena to work with the national team.
Orlando Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic said the timing was awful as it might interfere with the team’s pursuit of the league title.
“The call-up came at the wrong time because we want to have total peace and concentration,” said Micho after Pirates’ loss to Cape Town City on Wednesday night.
City coach Benni McCarthy also weighed in on the matter, saying although it was a good move, the timing was off.
McCarthy said Pirates needed all their resources in one basket if they hoped to be crowned champions.
“I think this is disabling Pirates’ coaching staff. They must let Pirates chase the league title. The Buccaneers don’t like to share anyway, so I can’t imagine they are happy about this,” said McCarthy.
“Our league must be competitive. I want to get to the last day of the season and still think anyone can win the league if Sundowns slips up. They (Bafana Bafana) can take Mokwena at the end of the season.”
Another thorny issue was the cold shoulder given to Sundowns right-back Thapelo Morena, one of the league’s standout defenders. Baxter struggled to justify his omission but Morena once again proved his worth when he helped the Brazilians secure a place in the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup.
It seems Baxter is looking to inject fresh blood into the team, although only two newcomers have been adding to the set-up. Maritzburg United’s utility midfielder, Siphesihle Ndlovu, and Ajax Cape Town goalkeeper Brandon Peterson are the only new faces in the team, as Reeve Frosler, Lebo Mothiba, Innocent Maela and Ryan Moon have previously played for the team.
Baxter emphasised the importance of widening the national team’s pool of players and the four-nation tournament in Zambia will give him the opportunity to do so.
He said the selected players deserved the call-ups and the ball was in their court to show everyone what they were made of.
Although Baxter said winning the tournament was not a priority, he knows that failure to do so will not go down well with South Africans.
On Thursday, Bafana Bafana will take on Angola while Zambia locks horns with Zimbabwe for a place in Sunday’s final.