South Africa have begun their preparation for the 2017 Mopani Copper Mines COSAFA Under-20 Championships and had a special guest at their first day of training on Sunday.
Senior national team coach Stuart Baxter was asked to take the first session to provide motivation to the players and show them their path to Bafana Bafana. The squad will be led again this year by Thabo Senong though, who will be hoping to turn his silver medal from 2016 into gold at the tournament in Zambia that runs from December 6-16.
Senong says having Baxter in attendance was a big fillip for the players. “We had a great response from all 21 players in the first training session and we are very grateful to all the clubs that released their players,” Senong said.
“We are going to have an intense week of training in preparation for the COSAFA Under-20 Championships and will announce our preliminary squad as soon as possible.
“We decided to invite Coach Baxter to allow the players to meet the coach and for him to share some of his experience as they are the future senior players. The players were very excited to have a session under him.
South Africa have a tough first round group as they tackle North African guest nation Egypt, Mozambique and Mauritius, with only the top team in each pool guaranteed a semifinal place, along with the best runner-up.
They will open their campaign against Mozambique at the Nkana Stadium in Kitwe on December 7, before a clash against the Mauritians at the same venue three days later.
They will close their pool with a potentially deciding fixture against Egypt at the Arthur Davies on December 12. The winner of the pool will play the best runner-up in the semifinals.