Baxter wary of complacency ahead of Seychelles clash
South Africa coach Stuart Baxter says he will drill into his players the importance of respecting Africa Cup of Nations qualifier opponents Seychelles over the next week for fear that complacency could see his side perform below par.
Bafana Bafana will expect to get six points from their home and away ties against the minnow Indian Ocean island, but Baxter says they have gone into matches against previous opponents with too much of a relaxed attitude and paid the price.
He points to the example of Cape Verde in the World Cup qualifiers last year, where Bafana expected to claim victory but ended up losing both home and away.
"I'm not saying anything now that I haven't said ahead of previous games, but nerves, anxiety, complacency ... those are the things that effect the intensity. If we play with the intensity we are now [in training] then we will pick our way through," Baxter told reporters.
"I said when we played Cape Verde, we were all a little bit off the mark in terms of saying, 'this is one of those small countries'. Small in stature, but players who were playing at a good level. They gave Senegal a good run.
"But it takes time ... Nigeria took time to pick their way through [against Seychelles]. I saw the Libya game [against Cape Verde]; the first 20 minutes were tight, so we just have to keep doing it."
Baxter wants Bafana to keep plugging away, even when they become frustrated by a Seychelles side that is likely to park the proverbial bus.
"That discipline, that's sometimes when nerves kick in and we don't have enough adrenalin. That is the challenge, and it has been the challenge for South African teams for some time. They know they can do it, but can they do it consistently?"
Baxter has conducted something of an overhaul of the squad since the World Cup qualifier failure, shedding some experienced stars in favour of youthful energy. He does not necessarily feel like this is a better squad, but one that perhaps does not carry the same baggage as their predecessors.
"I can't say this is a better squad, but this is a different squad, an exciting squad. These games, we shouldn't have any other thoughts in our minds except that we want six points, though we won't underestimate anybody."
The build-up has been hit by injuries, with Baxter replacing fullback Thapelo Morena and winger Vincent Pule with Thami Mkhize and Thembinkosi Lorch respectively.
"We already had [Bongani] Zungu, Themba [Zwane] and Keagan Dolly out, then you bring in Morena, who I thought was perfect for this game, and then he pulls a hamstring," a rueful Baxter said.
"Pule's is a bad one; the scans show he has a problem with his cruciate ligament, so it's not just a kick as some people thought. Those are two withdrawals that have caused some concern."
Another disruption has been the late arrival of in-form striker Dino Ndlovu, who has netted 18 goals in 21 games for Chinese second-tier side Hangzhou Greentown this season, but was left delayed in transit by a cancelled flight.
"Dino Ndlovu's flight was cancelled in Hong Kong. He was very professional though, he sent me a picture of the flight board! That is not ideal either, he is only going to have two days. But we have Percy [Tau] who can play nine, then we've got the big lad [Lebo Mothiba] who is looking very good."
Bafana host Seychelles at FNB Stadium on Saturday before the return fixture on Tuesday in Victori. A pair of wins will leave Bafana on the brink of qualifying for next year's Nations Cup in Cameroon.