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New South Africa football coach Baxter resists shake-up


Soweto (South Africa) (AFP) – A predicted shake-up by new South Africa coach Stuart Baxter did not materialise Thursday when the squad was named for a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Nigeria.  

The 63-year-old Englishman had hinted in the media at a more physical approach for the June 10 clash in Uyo, but chose 25 players who featured under predecessor Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba.

Former national star Mashaba was axed last December for publicly criticising South African football officials, including national association president Danny Jordaan.

Centre-back Clayton Daniels from SuperSport United — the club Baxter is leaving for the national job — was expected to be included as he fitted the “hard man” profile. 

But he was not picked with Baxter preferring long-time central defenders Thulani Hlatshwayo, Mulomowandau Mathoho and Rivaldo Coetzee, singled out by media as being potentially “soft”.

Baxter justified his as-you-where stance when the squad was announced at the national association offices in Soweto by saying “I am looking for some continuity.

“We do not want to throw the baby out with the bath water,” added the man taking charge of South Africa a second time after a 10 win-six draw-seven loss record between 2004 and 2005.

He did, however, hint at gradual changes.

“I certainly want to bring in some players that I believe can add value,” said Baxter, “and I want to reward some players.”

Mindful that Tokelo Rantie bagged a brace in a 2015 Cup of Nations qualifying draw in Nigeria, he recalled the recently out-of-favour striker.

Rantie is among six Europe-based South Africans called up, but there was no place for talented but sometimes troublesome Thulani Serero from 2017 Europa League runners-up Ajax Amsterdam.

“I contacted Thulani and said I did not think it fair to call him up when he had played less than 800 minutes of top-level football in the last year,” the coach explained.

Baxter did not name a captain, but Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and SuperSport midfielder Dean Furman are likely contenders to lead “Bafana Bafana” (The Boys).

South Africa have a woeful record against Nigeria, winning one and drawing four of 12 previous matches between them while scoring only six goals and conceding 22.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Darren Keet (Wits), Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs)‚ Ronwen Williams (SuperSport Utd)

Defenders: Lorenzo Gordinho, Mulomowandau Mathoho, Ramahlwe Mphahlele (all Chiefs)‚ Sifiso Hlanti‚ Thulani Hlatshwayo (both Wits)‚ Rivaldo Coetzee (Ajax Cape Town)‚ Tebogo Langerman (Mamelodi Sundowns), Abbubaker Mobara (Orlando Pirates)

Midfielders: Hlompho Kekana, Themba Zwane (both Sundowns)‚ Keagan Dolly (Montpellier/FRA)‚ Dean Furman (SuperSport)‚ Andile Jali (Ostend/BEL), Kamohelo Mokotjo (Twente/NED), Aubrey Ngoma (Cape Town City), Bongani Zungu (Vitoria Guimaraes/POR)

Strikers: Percy Tau, Sibusiso Vilakazi (both Sundowns)‚ Kermit Erasmus (Rennes/FRA)‚ Thamsanqa Gabuza (Pirates), Lebogang Manyama (Cape Town),Tokelo Rantie (Genclerbirligi/TUR)

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