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Bafana loss due to Baxter starting on a defensive footing against a team that they should’ve won against

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Neville's Eye

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South African national football coach Stuart Baxter got it horribly wrong in the Fifa 2018 World Cup qualifying match against Cape Verde on Friday, leaving South Africa being saved the blushes of being dumped out of the qualifiers only due to a drawn game by other teams in the group.

For some inexplicable reason Baxter chose to start on a defensive footing against a team which we should have whipped. His litany of errors began with him starting the game with Tokelo Rantie as a lone striker.

He also needlessly packed the midfield with five players.

Add to that Baxter’s questionable goalkeeping choice of Rhonwen Williams, which was so off the mark it’s not even funny. Williams is too inexperienced for this level in the same way that Cape Town City marksman Lebogang Manyama was. Manyame left the field later in the game as he was at sixes and sevens for most of the time that he was on the pitch.

The end result was that Baxter’s gamble with his post-minder and his squad formation gave the impression he was erring on the side of caution.

Talk about mixed signals.

Now in any self-respecting couch potato’s book that is as defensive a start as you will find. It did not say to Bafana’s supporters that Cape Verde was ready for the taking.

Baxter was aware of this blunder because he later remodelled Bafana’s formation when SA was trailing Cape Verde 2-1 before the break. He beefed up the strikeforce with Bradley Grobelaar and Kamohelo Mokotjo and paired them to Tokelo Rantie.

Curiously Baxter left open the centreback position of Mulomowandau Mathoho who was dismissed midway in the game. This is how he should have started in the first place!

The strategy of the three-pronged strike attack was too late in coming as the Cape Verde horse had already bolted by then.

As it is, South Africa retains its second tied spot on the log through the sheer lack of luck on Senegal’s part. A 10-man Senegal played to a goalless draw with Burkina Faso which leaves the group D berths basically unchanged.

Cape Verde’s win is just that, it affords them no upward movement. Regardless of the standings, we should by all accounts have coasted to Russia 2018 on the back of a win against Cape Verde on Friday.

All this means is that Baxter is under pressure to win by all costs in Durban tonight on the return match to stay in contention for Russia.

Not so Senegal, who are likely to regain their composure after the return from suspension of one of their star defenders and move to annex the group’s leadership with a determined Burkina Faso in close contention.

Anyway, that beef aside this column was supposed to focus on the highlights of the Premier Soccer League season such as the crop of goal poachers who have impressed most thus far towards the end of the first quarter.

My pick of star players in the PSL so far include Bidvest Wits players Daylon Claasen, Thulani Hlatshwayo and Reeve Frosler as well as Mkhehlane Makhaula of Free State Stars.

The Wits threesome were outstanding in their last outing against Free State Stars. In fact, some fans credit Ea Lla Koto’s summary dismissal of coach Sammy Troughton to the havoc visited on his side by this trio on the day.

Hlatshwayo rarely loses his form in the centre of the field. Claasen and Frosler were surprising new finds and look destined for a longer stay at the Clever Boys.

And for the record, Mkhauli’s lone effort to open Stars’ account against Wits was out of this world.