South Africa’s U-20 squad might have failed to get out of their group at the Fifa World Cup finals in South Korea last month, but national coach Stuart Baxter believes the core of that group must be encouraged to fulfil their potential at international level.
Baxter announced this week that the South African team to participate in the Cosafa Cup tournament that gets underway near Rustenburg on Sunday would be composed mainly of members of the Amajita squad.
South Africa will only get involved at the quarterfinal stage, but invited guests Tanzania get the ball rolling with an opening fixture against Malawi, and Mauritius follow up against Angola in a double-header at Moruleng Stadium.
The winner of this mini league will face Bafana Bafana on July 2.
“Cosafa will be another step in the development of the U-20 World Cup team that will form the backbone of our next Olympic squad,” said Baxter, the man who has injected a breath of fresh air into the national set-up.
“We will obviously try to strengthen the boys with whatever interesting older players that are available,” added Baxter, who could be looking to include experienced campaigners (despite being aged 20 and younger) such as Rivaldo Coetzee, Reeve Frosler and Fagrie Lakay.
“The African Nations Championship [where Bafana Bafana’s opening qualifying fixture is against Botswana in Francistown on July 15] is purely about home-based players but will also be under the development banner,” Baxter added.
It would not be the first time that South Africa fields a junior team in the senior Cosafa tournament. Last year, the country’s U-23 squad was fielded and won the tournament shortly before heading to Brazil to take part in the Olympic Games.
“People talk a lot about blooding youngsters, giving youngsters a chance,” Baxter told Kick Of f magazine.
“Let’s say, when I was at Chiefs, Lorenzo Gordinho was in the same situation as Teboho Mokoena. We had a lot of good, experienced players so you don’t throw five or six kids in at the same time because it’s not fair to them. They can’t show what they can do.”
This refreshing approach with a particular focus on the youth has been warmly welcomed by the president of the South African Football Association, Danny Jordaan.
He has applauded Baxter for trying to achieve all the objectives of Vision 2022, the development plan for South African football.
“There are countless players that fall in the U-20 category,” said Jordaan. “Let us not concern ourselves or copy what others are doing but focus on what we want to achieve and so, let us give our boys the necessary platform to gain experience.
‘Hopefully, after taking part in the tournament, it would be the necessary step for them towards graduating to the Olympic Games in Tokyo and, certainly, a boy like Teboho Mokoena [from SuperSport United] has proved that, despite being just , he could be the kind of player you could build a future national team around.”
Coming up tops in the Cosafa Cup could be a huge ask for the mix-and-match South African youth squad, but the Keagan Dolly-led Bafana secured gold when they hosted the tournament at the same venue last year — and that should be encouragement enough for the current generation of players to go for the jugular.