Bafana finding ways to work around disjointed build-up to Libya test
Stuart Baxter was pleased with a warm-up runout for his South Africa side on Wednesday that allowed them to practise different scenarios ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against what could be a stubborn Libya in Durban on Saturday.
Baxter says it is hard to work tactically with players when he has just a few days' worth of training, and so they had a very focused session in which his squad beat Premier Soccer League side AmaZulu 2-0.
Bradley Grobler and Vincent Pule got the goals in each half, with the match split into two 30 minutes periods -- the first in which Baxter asked AmaZulu to play ultra-defensively and the second when he asked them to attack his side.
"With players arriving late and new players in the squad, it was important that we had a little bit of a run-out in terms of 11 versus 11," Baxter said.
"We asked AmaZulu if they would play deep in one half so we had to pick our way through, and in the other one they would come on and have a go at us so we could use our ability on transitions.
"When they played deep we got through four or five times with some good football, and that is important that they [Bafana players] remember that sort of football.
"There was some disjointed stuff because the players are very new to each other, but there was some very good stuff as well. Now it is up to us and build on that."
Late arrivals in camp and injuries to key players have made for a disjointed build-up for Baxter, who is under some pressure to get a win after a dismal FIFA World Cup qualification campaign and an underwhelming recent COSAFA Cup tournament.
Baxter said it had been a difficult few days with the chopping and changing in the squad.
"Our best football is played when we do certain things, and those things we have to do more," he said. "The things we don't like, we need to do less and that is the challenge of international football."
"You sometimes have players who don't know each other, who don't know their opponents, and have to grasp a bit of a game-plan and say, 'right, I can do that'. The structure was not bad, we realized what we are good at doing. Now maybe we can relax into it a bit more."
The question over what formation Baxter will play is probably moot, with the coach quite settled on a 4-3-3, though he goes into this game without Themba Zwane, who has been integral in that system.
But it does allow for the fast transitions that Baxter enjoys, and South Africa have the players to make it work.
Itumeleng Khune looks to be a shoo-in for the goalkeeping position, and it would not be a surprise to see Thulani Hlatshwayo partner clubmate Buhle Mkhwanazi in the centre of defence given their understanding.
Ramahlwe Mphahlele should start in the right-back position, but the selection at left-back is less certain, though Sifiso Hlanti would make it close to an all-Bidvest Wits backline if selected.
The midfield three likely select themselves with Dean Furman in the centre, Kamohelo Mokotjo to his right and Keagan Dolly to the left.
Grobler will probably get the nod for targetman striker, alongside Percy Tau and perhaps a surprise selection of Vincent Pule to his left.
Finding space for Sibusiso Vilakazi from the start may be the only other consideration, and he could take the place of Grobler.
Baxter says he will be going light on his players in the coming days ahead of the game what he expects to be a well-organised Libya team, working mostly on tactical aspects as he tries to bring them up to speed with his plans quickly.
"Tomorrow [Thursday] we are at the stadium to work through some things, not heavy, and then we will work on some set-plays in the afternoon," he said.
"Friday is a pre-match session where we really prepare tactically and try and get into a good headspace."