Bafana's crisis ‘part of the job’ reasons Baxter

In January 1995, while coaching Japanese club Vissel Kobe, with whom he won the J-League, Stuart Baxter went off to Portugal on a player scouting trip.

Shortly after the departure of the current Bafana Bafana coach on this player-search mission, an earthquake struck Kobe, the second largest city in Japan with 10-million inhabitants, causing the death of  6 000 people and damage of more than R2 000 billion.

And, coping with the aftermath of this horrific tragedy - apart for the fact that his departure to Portugal might well have been timeous - proved the most harrowing and pressurised period in a varied, testing but largely successful career of the 64 year-old, Birmingham-born Englishman.

So coping with the kind of dilemma that now faces Bafana in particular and South African soccer and sport in general of possibly failing to qualify for next year's World Cup in Russia following on the shock 2-1 defeat against a modest, but compact Cape Verde Island  team on Friday,  is nothing new  for the amiable and experienced  coach.

"Pressure is only negative if you allow it to be," has always been his dictum. "It's only damaging if you make it so."

And his message before Tuesday night's return against Cape Verde in Durban, in which defeat will virtually mean the demise of South Africa's World Cup qualifying prospects, is for all the players involved to "work hard, do your best and get your hands dirty in the process if necessary."

Victory, however, will by no means constitute a ticket to Russia for Bafana, but it will turn the four-team African group from which one team qualifies for the World Cup into a three-team race along with Senegal and Burkina Faso.

And despite Baxter's rallying cry, misgivings remain, principally from the fact that the players who take the field against the well-knit and clinical Cape Verdeans at the Moses Mabhida Stadium had only been under his charge for one match - the stirring away CAF Nations Cup qualifying victory against Nigeria in June - before the Cape Verde debacle.

The string of pseudo-type internationals since have by enforced necessity been conducted with second and third-string players and meant little, if anything in preparing for the vastly more important World Cup qualifiers.

Indeed, in this respect, the victory over Nigeria might have done more harm than good, inserting a general aura of complacency, which will need to be cast aside against Cape Verde in Durban - and more importantly the forthcoming games against Senegal and Burkina Faso should they still matter.

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