Touch and go for Bafana Bafana

2014-12-14 15:00

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While Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba has accepted being in the tough group, the doubt around leading striker Tokelo Rantie’s availability might cause him sleepless nights ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals next month.

Another cause for concern for Mashaba is left back Sibusiso Khumalo, who is also out of action with a knee injury.

Bafana have been drawn against top-ranked Algeria, former champions Ghana and the high-riding Senegal in what has been dubbed the “group of death”.

But with exactly five weeks to go before Afcon kicks off in Equatorial Guinea, injuries to these two key members of the team are making Mashaba and his technical team sweat.

Red-hot Rantie and defender Khumalo have been sidelined by injuries sustained at their clubs.

Rantie is nursing a dislocated shoulder while Khumalo underwent a minor operation on his knee.

The duo are out of action over the festive period and their rehabilitation programme could extend through to Christmas, perhaps even into the start of next year.

Mashaba is expected to announce a 30-man squad, which will go to camp on December 26.

Bafana have lined up a friendly against a neighbouring country, presumably Zambia, who will also be preparing for the Afcon finals.

Mashaba will announce his final team on December?30 before the team departs for Gabon, where they would have another camp.

Although the two players are expected to be included in the team, there would be question marks about their match fitness status as they would have been out of action for more than a month.

But the worst fears for Mashaba could be Rantie’s shoulder injury, which he sustained while playing for his English club AFC Bournemouth.

But while Bournemouth assistant coach Jason Tindall was quoted on the club’s website as saying the striker was on the mend, his former mentor Farouk Khan said it would be touch and go.

According to Khan, the demanding Afcon schedule could be too much for his former protégé to be on top of his game.

“We need to pray for him because he needs time to recover fully. Fortunately, it is not the same shoulder that has been giving him problems. But I know he is a fighter and will make it. But we should not expect him to be on top of his game,” said the Stars of Africa Football Academy boss.

Tindall was more positive. “TK has made great progress. He has been running on the training field but can’t train fully yet due to the contact side of things,” he wrote.

“But in terms of how he is feeling and how his shoulder is healing, everything is positive.

“He is being assessed on a daily basis before a decision is made as to when we bring him back into full training.

“You need to be careful with partial dislocations because there is a high percentage rate of recurrences so we don’t want to rush him back and potentially set him back even further.”

Rantie had been in fine form before dislocating his shoulder, helping South Africa with four goals in six qualifiers to book their Afcon place, while Khumalo had also played his part in the three games he was involved in.

But SuperSport United coach Gordon Igesund believes Khumalo will be ready for Afcon.

The former Bafana coach has assured the national team selectors the player would be available for the event.

“It is not something too serious. He is recovering very well and should be back in full training in the next few weeks,” said Igesund.

Diary

Bafana key dates

December 26: Mini camp (South Africa)

December 30: Final team announcement

January 4: Friendly game

January 6: Depart for Gabon (have lined up another friendly in Gabon)

January 17: Afcon starts

January 19: South Africa vs Algeria

January 23: Senegal vs South Africa

January 27: Ghana vs South Africa

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