Stuart Baxter confirms Zakhele Lepasa interest

Stuart Baxter confirms Zakhele Lepasa interest

Stuart Baxter has confirmed interest to lure Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana forward Zakhele Lepasa to Sweden.

But the Helsingborgs IF coach told SABC Sport the move was now off following talks with the Buccaneers as the Soweto giants feel the striker could be a key part of their squad next season. 

Lepasa finished the final six months of the 2022/23 campaign on loan at SuperSport United where he was looking to revive his career and keep his place in the national team squad under coach Hugo Broos. 

“I watched him for a while and noticed he wasn’t in the frame at Pirates,” the former Kaizer Chiefs mentor explained. 

“Then I spoke to people at SuperSport and they said he is not a regular there either and so naturally I wondered what his next move was because I quite like the player and believe Sweden would suit him.” 

Baxter added that Pirates’ stance is to hold on to Lepasa, although the idea of allowing him to join Helsingborgs in the Swedish second tier on a short-term agreement was appealing to the club.  

“My thoughts was that we can’t afford to buy him outright. A loan move at a well-known club in Europe with the potential to then fight for promotion back to the topflight may suit Pirates to let him be in the [shop] window. To be fair I think they considered it,” Baxter said. 

Lepasa is fresh from scoring for the national team last weekend in Bafana’s 2-1 win over FIFA World Cup semifinalist Morocco at Soccer City in an AFCON qualifier played in front of a packed crowd.

Broos told journalists after the game he was puzzled why Lepasa struggled for minutes at both Pirates and SuperSport.

The Belgian mentor is keen to have the striker in his squad for the continental tournament in Ivory Coast next year. 

“When he scores for Bafana it makes it tough for Pirates when he is a national team player. I think he was he was also ready for a challenge. It would have been good, but it became difficult. He’s got a lot of quality and can develop and grow in Sweden – he is good with link up play and knows where to find the space. Hugo sees those qualities too, I was hopeful. I saw a lot of different things for him. But as I understand, it's not going to happen,” said Baxter, who also coached Bafana and Chiefs over two spells before heading back to Sweden.