Big boost for Bafana

The rudderless national team is set to be given a head coach after a five-month hiatus, writes Ebrahim Moolla

The South African Football Association (Safa) is set to conclude the protracted process of announcing the new Bafana Bafana coach within the next 48 hours, with SuperSport United’s Stuart Baxter widely expected to be the man in charge.

“Following a thorough, but lengthy process of seeking a replacement head coach, Safa is pleased to announce that it has finalised an agreement with the successful candidate and is in the process of formalising the legal arrangements by exchanging signatures.

“We are mindful that the South African public has been waiting with bated breath for this matter to be concluded and we can report that we will make a formal and more detailed announcement to this effect in the next 24 to 48 hours,” read a Safa statement.

Matsasantsa confirmed as far back as March that they had given Safa permission to talk to Stuart Baxter about the vacant post, but the process was lengthened initially by discussions about Baxter’s coaching staff, notably his demand that his son, who is also at SuperSport, be instated as the national team’s goalkeeping trainer, Safa is also not prepared to pay compensation – reported to be in the region of R2,5 million – and set a problematic precedent.

The Bafana link coincided with a series of disappointing results for the club from the capital that has seen them drop out of the running for the PSL title. On Wednesday evening, they were held to a goalless draw by Bloemfontein Celtic at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Pretoria.

However, they remain in contention for the Nedbank Cup, after edging Kaizer Chiefs in a penalty shootout to advance to the semi-finals of the knockout competition. The men in blue will continue the defence of their title against Chippa United on 13 May, with Orlando Pirates and Golden Arrows also still in the draw.

Safa’s efforts to bring in Shakes Mashaba’s replacement before two friendly games in April were in vain and SA U23 boss Owen da Gama was on the bench following their failure to land targets Carlos Queiroz, Hugo Broos or Herve Renard. The appointment of the experienced Baxter, who has held the position in the past, will be a boon for the national team ahead of World Cup qualifier ties later in the year.