Stuart Baxter has no fear over Nigeria clash
South Africa coach Stuart Baxter says that while his side have a healthy respect for Africa Cup of Nations qualifier opponents, there is no fear of the Super Eagles ahead of the clash at the FNB Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Bafana are unbeaten in their last four matches against Nigeria, including a 2-0 victory in Uyo last time out.
That was the second time that Baxter has masterminded a victory over the Super Eagles having also beaten them 2-1 during his first spell in charge of the side in 2004.
South Africa have not lost a full competitive international to Nigeria since 2008, not counting the African Nations Championship that features restrictions on squad selections.
So despite an injury-ravaged squad, with the midfield hardest hit, Baxter is confident he has enough to take on and beat the Super Eagles, which would secure Bafana's place.
"Everybody knows the list of injuries that we have had," Baxter told reporters. "Everybody knows what I said in the first press conference that despite that, I want to speak about the players that we do have because even though we respect Nigeria we do not fear them.
"I think we have still enough talent‚ enough desire and if we can structure a game-plan in the next three or four days‚ I think by the time we run out onto the FNB Stadium we will be confident‚ but not be complacent‚ because Nigeria have just come from a World Cup."
Baxter says Nigeria will no doubt want to right the wrongs of Uyo, where Bafana could easily have won 5-0 as they dominated a lacklustre Super Eagles side.
"They are undefeated since we beat them the last time and they will certainly want to wreak their revenge. So‚ we will be ready and I still believe that we have a very good chance of getting the result that we need."
Baxter has moved to allay fears over the fitness of recalled midfielder Thulani Serero, who sat out at the weekend for his Dutch club Vitesse with what was described in the press as an ankle injury.
But it turns out that it is a gash that has required stitches, but should not keep him of the pitch on Saturday if selected.
"We did not receive anything from the club about Thulani but through media reports in Holland," Baxter explained.
"They said he had an ankle injury. We knew he was on the plane but we did not know anything about the injury. So we held or breaths a little bit.
"When he got off [the plane] he said had a laceration‚ five stitches and a gash. The stitches should come off‚ easy training and he should be okay for full training [on Tuesday]."
Baxter will know the value of getting a positive result on Saturday, not just to seal qualification for Cameroon, but also silence the doubters over his own position.
Baxter's second tenure has been a roller-coaster ride, from the highs of Uyo in his first game in charge to the disappointment in the manner in which the team lost out in the World Cup qualifiers.
Failure to win on Saturday will likely leave them with an uncomfortable trip to North Africa where they will take on Libya on neutral territory needing to avoid defeat to book their place at the Nations Cup.
That will also provide his doubters with another four months to stew over whether he is the right man for the job.
Nigeria have never defeated Bafana at the altitude of Johannesburg in three previous attempts, with their only previous wins in the country coming at coastal venues.