By Alistair Nyamuda
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 3 of VARSITY News.
South Africa cemented their place in Afcon 2020 after a hard fought 2-1 win against Libya on Sunday the 24thof March. Striker Percy Tau scored a brace to ensure his team’s qualification into the next edition of the competition. Bafana Bafana managed to finish unbeaten, and second to a strong Nigerian side, with whom they also drew in November 2018. Stuart Baxter’s side had to at least draw their final game with Libya to qualify, the later team being two points behind South Africa before the two sides met.
— CAF (@CAF_Online) March 24, 2019
Since Bafana Bafana successfully winning the tournament in 1996, there has been a steady decline in the team’s performance in the tournament, coming runner up to Egypt in their 1998 Afcon campaign, and 3rd in 2000. Their best performance in recent years was a 6th place finish in 2013, but they failed to progress out of the group stages in 2015, finishing 15th. South Africa has not qualified for the tournament since then.
The team’s performance has been lacking luster in recent years, and a lot of this can be attributed to the struggle the team has had with finding a coach that can bring the best out of Bafana Bafana. No coach has lasted longer than 2 years managing the Bafana Bafana team in the last 10 years, and since 2008, South Africa Football has seen its managerial position change hands 7 times.
There is hope for the side however. Their recent coach, Stuart Baxter rejoined the South African side having last managed them in 2005. His return in 2017 has seen a rejuvenation of confidence in the team, shown in their resilient performance against Libya, and their draw with Nigeria. Stuart Baxter has returned for a second term as coach for South Africa and is confident that they have nothing to fear, with the imminence of Afcon 2020:
“I don’t want to say this and bring pressure onto the players, but I don’t think this squad of players that we have at the moment have at the moment should fear anybody” says Baxter in a Sports 24 article.
He made it clear that he also wants to continue to shape Bafana Bafana’s identity:
“Now, I think the next step in the development of the squad is to go there and develop a personality, an identity”.