Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has reiterated his long held position that he will vacate his position if his team fails to qualify for this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament in Egypt in June.
South Africa who are second in Group E, need at least a point against Libya in March to qualify for the Afcon tournament.
The Englishman apologised to the nation in Polokwane in November 2017 after failing to guide the team to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Bafana started their Afcon qualifying campaign like a house on fire by beating Nigeria away in Uyo in their opening match, but things went pear-shaped when they failed to beat Libya in Durban, in a match that ended goalless.
South Africa went on to thrash minnows of Seychelles 6-0 at home, but the return fixture produced no goals on the Indian Ocean Island and that underlined Bafana’s inconsistency.
Now Bafana are with their backs to the wall with just one qualifying match remaining. They must at least secure a draw against Libya away from home to finish second in the group and join Nigeria as Afcon qualifiers from Group E.
Baxter says the South African Football Association will have to convince him otherwise, if the team does not qualify.
“I said before if we don’t qualify certainly, I will tell the FA that you better make sure that you really want me to carry on because I will walk if you want. So it will not cost them a fortune to sack me, it will not; but also if I can’t do the job there and if I think that we are not moving forward with the pace I want because of certain things and I just can’t do it I will also walk.”
Baxter says he cannot afford to experiment in such a crucial game, and will be forced to stick with the tried and tested for the encounter. It is still not clear whether the game against Libya will be played in Egypt or Tunisia. Not even the date has been confirmed by the hosts.
“Of course it’s an important game you don’t want to be experimenting too much with this one. You don’t want to be taking people that you don’t think are mentally strong and they can keep a performance with a knife on their throat. Players that I know obviously it will be easier to select than players I don’t know, but if there’s a player that’s got a very hot vein of form going into it, I think there’s got to be a little bit of space for that.”
Bafana were in a relatively easy World Cup qualifying group, but ended up losing four games in the process. South Africa were grouped with Senegal, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde, but finished last in their group with four points.
Baxter says he’s in a catch 22 situation because he has to qualify for major tournaments and at the same time his other mission is to rebuild the team.
“What have I done until now, well the world cup qualifiers things did not go the way we wanted. I came in late, I did what I could we had a couple of bad results. After that, I was asked to try to remodel the squad, in my conversation with the FA then was you sure you want me to do that because there will be some players coming and some players going. I will try and get the young ones in, but on the road to doing that we may have a couple of bad results.”
After two credible draws against Nigeria and Paraguay, Baxter says his players will have good mental strength going into the Libya match.
“I don’t want it to be any negativity whatsoever; I want us to make sure that we have a simple game plan based on working hard. Based on doing what we can do, every opportunity we create we counter hurt them, making sure that we all aware and it’s reflected in the hard work that we do to make that game plan work. Then if we can do that then we can have confidence going into it. I think we have a good team.”
With the return of key players such as Bongani Zungu, Keegan Dolly, Kamohelo Mokotjo, and Dean Furman, Baxter will have his strongest possible squad.
The squad will be named in the first week of March.