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Orlando Pirates defender Innocent Maela has improved, says Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter

7:20 PM SGT 1/6/18
Percy Tau & Innocent Maela, South Africa
The accomplished trainer is pleased with the 25-year-old's improved game ahead of Bafana's first game in the regional competition

Orlando Pirates left-back Innocent Maela was showed with praise by South Africa head coach Stuart Baxter ahead of this weekend's Cosafa Cup clash against Madagascar.

The gifted defender was a revelation for Pirates during the 2017/18 season as he established himself as one of the team's key players.

Maela was first included in the Bafana Bafana squad for the Four-Nation tournament in March 2018 as a reward for his excellent performances and he helped Baxter's side clinch the inaugural competition.

Maela, Maritzburg United starlet Siphesihle Ndlovu and SuperSport United winger Aubrey Modiba are some of the new Bafana players, who caught the eye during the tournament which was hosted by Zambia.

“We started this sort of transformation with the Four Nations. We’ve given those ones that were quite good another chance to get some more caps under their belts," Baxter told the media.

Maela and Ndlovu are now part of the Bafana squad that will face Madagascar in the 2018 Cosafa Cup quarter-final match at the New Peter Mokaba Stadium this weekend.

They could also be included in South Africa's squad for the 2019 Caf Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Libya in September 2018. 

"And I think those will be the ones who will be candidates for the [Afcon qualifiers] squad,” he continued.

The British tactician feels Maela, who made 26 appearances in all competitions for Bucs, has improved. 

“I think Innocent Maela looks like he has improved. We took him to Cosafa Cup last year and he was at Thanda. On the back of his performance for us, he went to Pirates," he explained.

"Last year, he was one that was just galloping up and down the line, [but] now he is playing. Now he looks like he is affecting the game," he added.

"So, I am hoping for a kick for guys like [Siphesihle] Ndlovu so that they do make themselves candidates," he concluded.