Stuart Baxter during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match between Nigeria and Bafana Bafana. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Stuart Baxter during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match between Nigeria and Bafana Bafana. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Stuart Baxter tried to release his senior players who played in Saturday’s famous win over Nigeria for Tuesday’s friendly against Zambia in Moruleng, but they did not want to leave, the coach has said.

Arriving at OR Tambo International Airport at 5am on Monday from their 2-0 Africa Cup of Nations victory in Uyo on Saturday, an exhausted Bafana boarded a bus for Rustenburg to begin preparing to meet Zambia at Moruleng Stadium.

The friendly match in the off-season so soon after a tough qualifier against Nigeria, which involved almost 24 hours of travel to Uyo via Lagos, and 18 hours back, has resulted in grumbles from players.

Baxter had said he planned to release perhaps even all of his starting XI who earned SA a first-ever competitive victory against the Super Eagles, and potentially make late calls to some young players.

But the coach said on arrival back in SA, the players did not want to leave.

"We’ve looked at the concept of releasing players, but no one wants to leave the squad," the coach said.

"We may call an extra one player, because we have a few injuries. Keagan Dolly obviously can’t play. Tower [Mulomowandau Mathoho] is doubtful with his shoulder. I think Dean Furman needs a rest after coming back from the Congo [with SuperSport United last weekend] and then doing this trip.

"So, we do have a few walking wounded, but they don’t want to leave the squad. So that was good news. That’s nice."

Baxter is still likely to give most of his starting XI from Uyo a break. That means travelling squad members who did not get a run such as Darren Keet, Abbubaker Mobara, Lorenzo Gordinho, Sifiso Hlanti, Lebogang Phiri and Thamsanqa Gabuza seem likely to start against Chipololopolo.

Baxter said the Zambia game is a chance for these players to stake a claim for a place in the first team.

"I’ll be asking a few questions. It’s very nice what we’ve done in Nigeria and then this is a new game.

"If we’ve got new foot soldiers out there, then they’ve got to carry the battle to Zambia the same way as the lads did in Nigeria," the coach said.

"We’ll be going through what we have to today, and then everybody who represents the country, they do their best," he said.

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