Percy Tau. Picture: ANESH DEBIKY/GALLO IMAGES
Percy Tau. Picture: ANESH DEBIKY/GALLO IMAGES

Percy Tau is set to play a significant role for Bafana Bafana at the Africa Cup of  Nations (Afcon)  in June and coach Stuart Baxter wants his star man to “stretch himself even more” in the tournament in Egypt.

Bafana were pitted against Ivory Coast‚ Namibia and Morocco in Group D after the recent draw in Cairo, and Baxter said he wants Tau to win big games for the national side in the event.

The Briton is expected to unleash his top scorer in the continental showpiece and he insists that he would not attempt to shield the player in the continent’s maiden 24-team competition.

“Big players win big games and you can’t prepare people by wrapping them in cotton wool‚” said Baxter of his most prized asset Tau‚ who scored four goals to help secure Bafana’s 10th appearance in the event.

“The easy way is not a good teacher. Percy has got to where he is by working hard and taking some of the knocks.”

Baxter said Tau would demonstrate the rapid strides he has made in the year he has spent on loan with Belgian second division side Royal Union Saint-Gilloise, following his transfer from Mamelodi Sundowns to English club Brighton & Hove Albion last July.

“When Chris Hutton [Brighton coach] called and asked me ‘is he strong enough?’ I said to him he played against [Kalidou] Coulibaly [of Napoli and Burkina Faso] and didn’t get knocked around. I said if you look at the Burkina Faso centre-backs they are almost 2m and 150kg‚ yet Percy was in and out of them and they couldn’t catch him.

“He had to go through that and Coulibaly did try and knock him out. The two centre-backs did. So he got through that. I think he needs to stretch himself even more.

“So rather than wrap Percy in cotton wool and say that we don’t want them to target him‚ well target him. You have to stretch yourself and we have to stretch ourselves and people have to maybe take some of the burden from Percy by making some movements to try and take some of the defenders around. So we have to get better as a team and Percy has to stretch himself. In the time leading up to the Afcon we will take that into account with all the players.”

Tau scored two wonderful goals in the second half when Bafana beat Libya 2-1 in an intense game in Tunisia in March.

Bafana needed a point to qualify and Tau helped them to get an emphatic victory that saw Baxter’s team finish unbeaten with 12 points‚ one shy of Nigeria who topped the group.

The other two goals for Tau came in Bafana’s first competitive win against Nigeria when they defeated the Super Eagles 2-0 in Uyo in June 2017. He scored the other in the 6-0 demolition of Seychelles at the FNB Stadium in late 2018.