Editor's Blog 6.6.2017 12:45 pm

Man-mountain Tyson is the perfect choice

Thulani Hlatshwayo (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Thulani Hlatshwayo (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Thulani Hlatshwayo’s nickname, “Tyson,” doesn’t take much working out when you watch the Bidvest Wits defender on the field of play.

I don’t think I have seen a player, in all my years of covering the Premier Soccer League, who thumps into a challenge quite like this man-mountain from Soweto. This is a leader that any coach in South Africa, I am sure, would love to be with them going into battle and as such he does seem a natural choice for Stuart Baxter as the permanent captain of Bafana Bafana.

“Tyson” has had an excellent season wearing the armband with Bidvest Wits, winning the MTN8 and Absa Premiership, and deserves, in my opinion, to just edge out Itumeleng Khune.

Baxter knows Khune well from his time as head coach at Kaizer Chiefs, and must have considered him too for the position. But if you look at the fact that Stuart Baxter’s captain at Kaizer Chiefs was Tefu Mashamaite, and not Khune, it cannot come as too much of a surprise that the current Amakhosi skipper was overlooked.

“I like centrebacks that are in the thick of things,” Baxter said at his press conference yesterday. And it is true that an outfield player can often have more of an influence on a game as captain than a goalkeeper. It is a relief, in any case, that Baxter has named a permanent captain.

Shakes Mashaba’s reign was punctuated by far too many changes of captain, with the armband thrown around so much it had to lose some of its value.

It will be fascinating to see how Baxter’s Bafana do in his first game in charge on Saturday, a daunting task in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria in Uyo. Ironically, it was at the same venue that Mashaba got one of his better results as Bafana head coach, a 2-2 qualifying draw with the Super Eagles that saw the hosts dumped out of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

If Bafana can also get a point on Saturday against another star-studded Nigerian side, it will be an excellent start to their bid to qualify for Cameroon 2019. Gernot Rohr’s Nigeria are in fine form at present, while Baxter has barely got his feet wet in his second spell as Bafana head coach.

A defeat would hardly be surprising, and should not call for any knee-jerk reaction towards the new national team coach. But such is the nature of this job, that it almost certainly will see an added dose of pressure heaped on the Scotsman’s shoulders.

There is plenty of pressure on any coach, with Roger de Sa once saying that the only certainty in the job is the sack. Cavin Johnson effectively got that yesterday at Platinum Stars, with the club opting not to extend his contract. Dikwena chairman Cliff Ramoroa talked of bringing in someone to take the club to “another level” but I find this astonishing.

After all, by qualifying Stars for the Caf Confederation Cup group stages, did Johnson not already reach “another level”, with a team of middling resources in terms of playing staff?

Johnson, only last season, it must be remembered, finished an amazing third in the Premiership with the Phokeng side. Sometimes club management borders on the ludicrous.

Just to finish off, don’t forget to enter the Phakaaathi Player-of-the-Month competition on Page 8, for your chance to win R350 in airtime.

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