It looks increasingly likely that Stuart Baxter will get a second bite at the Bafana cherry. The South African Football Association (Safa) appear to have finally managed to fill the position vacated by Shakes Mashaba in November and currently occupied on an interim basis by Owen da Gama.
According to Times Live, Wits coach, Gavin Hunt let the cat out of the bag when asked about the prospects of him landing the plum position. “They (Safa) can’t call me can they? They’ve got Baxter already haven’t they? They have made their decision. They have tried to get three or four coaches and they didn’t get them,” Hunt blurted out.
Baxter will reportedly be announced as the new coach of the national team in the next 24 hours, after ironing out a few issues on the R1 million-a-month deal regarding the selection of his coaching staff, including his son, SuperSport’s goalkeeping coach Leo, and Matsatsantsa fitness trainer Joshua Smith.
The 63-year-old Scotsman will take the reins he held from May 2004 to November 2005 – at which point he was sacked after failing to qualify for the 2006 Soccer World Cup. A shrewd tactician, Baxter won two league titles and the Nedbank Cup with Kaizer Chiefs and has managed clubs in Japan, Sweden and Portugal, as well as taking charge of the England’s U19s from 2002 to 2004.
Carlos Queiroz, Herve Renard, Hugo Broos and Roberto Mancini were some of the high-profile names in the hat for the Bafana post, but Safa appears to have turned to an old friend in their interminable quest for a new manager.
SuperSport are currently lying in fourth place on the PSL log, four points off the summit, and Baxter is expected to honour his commitments with the Pretoria-based side until the end of the season.
There won’t be too much excitement about his appointment, bearing in mind the names that were being touted in the past, but Baxter does have experience with South African players and the benefit of taking charge of a Bafana team that is riding the crest of a record-breaking 17-match unbeaten run.