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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2019: Stuart Baxter explains why it's unfair to compare current Bafana Bafana team with class of 1996

7:54 AM GMT 01/07/2019
South Africa's Stuart Baxter, June 2019
The British tactician feels that there is a huge difference in the political situation then and now in the country

South Africa head coach Stuart Baxter has explained why it is unfair to compare the current squad with the class of 1996.

The current Bafana Bafana team is trying to emulate Clive Barker's side which went all the way and clinched South Africa's first Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) title 23 years ago.

It remains the country's only Afcon title and Baxter is hoping to deliver Bafana's second trophy at the ongoing finals in Egypt.

“We have got this thing about comparing our team to the 96ers. But it was a totally different time. Nelson Mandela had just come into power … everyone was optimistic," Baxter said.

Bafana have been unimpressive at the tournament so far and they are desperate to secure a victory over Morocco in order to advance to the Round of 16 on Monday.

"The hopes and dreams of the team were reflected in the country. It not the same now, we are not as hopeful [as a nation], we [Bafana] have now been given the mantle to give people hope. It is a heavy burden sometimes," the former England under-19 coach continued.

“I think the lads feel that. Instead of reflecting the hopes of the country, we are trying to give them hope, because otherwise there is not a lot to be happy about. So you just have to get on with it, keep yourself in a bubble, do your job, enjoy it and hopefully get a result.

“I don’t know if I am more relaxed now. We are getting to the pointed end of the stick, it is give and take. In the beginning, we wanted a good start, and I was a bit stressed, now we are right at the door [of qualification for the next round].

"I think when we first set out it was into a bit of the unknown for the squad. The preparations were not exactly as we wanted, there were some pull-outs from games that we needed, and the players probably felt ‘are we ready?’ …. it [anxiety] comes more from there … and if anything goes positively it helps alleviate that," he explained. 

"I think the players are this moment are believing a bit more," he concluded.