Back to the big boys

2013-08-28 00:00

BAFANA Bafana coach Gordon Igesund has named what he believes to be one of his strongest squads, ahead of next month’s crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier against Botswana at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

Twenty-three players have been called up for the September 7 clash — a match that Bafana must win to stand any chance of qualifying for Brazil next year.

There are recalls for former captain Bongani Khumalo (Doncaster Rovers, England) and play maker Thulani Serero (Ajax Amsterdam, Holland), while 22-year-old midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo (PEC Zwolle, Holland) is the only uncapped player in the squad, which includes eight overseas-based players.

“Over the past couple of games, we have tried out a few younger players and I am happy with how that went,” Igesund said in Durban yesterday.

“But this game is not the time to be trying things. It is a crucial match for us and I think this is one of the strongest squads I have selected since becoming coach.”

While victory for Bafana is imperative, it might not be enough to see them progress on the road to Brazil. South Africa will also need Group A log-leaders Ethiopia to drop points against the Central African Republic (CAR). A win for Ethiopia knocks Bafana out of contention, regardless of their result against Botswana.

“I have learnt not to worry about the things that I cannot change,” said Igesund of the Ethiopia match, which will be played concurrently with Bafana’s match. “I won’t even be checking the results. All that is important is that we win, and I think that our squad has too much quality for them [Botswana]. I can tell you now that Ethiopia won’t have it easy against CAR.”

There was no room in the squad for AmaZulu left-back Marc van Heerden, who made his debut in the August 17 win over Burkina Faso, although the 25-year-old has been selected for a watered-down squad for a September 10 friendly against Zimbabwe at a venue yet to be confirmed.

“I like Marc’s attitude and I was happy with his debut. He was one of the players to really put his hand up,” Igesund told The Witness. “It’s just a bit early for him, and there are a couple of defensive issues to iron out. He definitely has a future with Bafana, otherwise I wouldn’t have selected him for the Zimbabwe match.”

On Mokotjo, Igesund said that the player has been in marvellous form for his club over the past few weeks. “He is scoring goals and creating chances,” said the coach.

“I think there would have been more questions if I hadn’t selected him, given how well he is playing.”

There is also a return to the side for Crystal Palace’s English Premier League star Kagisho Dikgacoi, while Orlando Pirates’ Kermit Erasmus has been included as one of three strikers, alongside Bernard Parker and Tokelo Rantie.

Lerato Chabangu and Thuso Phala were among the biggest names dropped, while Swedish club Helsinborg’s May Mahlangu is injured.

Bafana will arrive in Durban on Monday, with Botswana expected to arrive two days later.

• The group winners progress to a home and away play-off against another African group winner. The winner of that will qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

September 7 fixtures

SA vs Botswana

CAR vs Ethiopia

Bafana squad vs Botswana, September 7

Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune, Wayne Sandilands, Senzo Meyiwa

Defenders: Siyanda Xulu, Bongani Khumalo, Thabo Nthethe, Anele Ngcongca, Tsepo Masilela, Thabo Matlaba, Buhle Mkhwanazi

Midfielders: Dean Furman, Oupa Manyisa, Andile Jali, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Bongani Zungu, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Daine Klate, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Thulani Serero

Strikers: Bernard Parker, Tokelo Rantie, Kermit Erasmus.


Ethiopia 5 3 1 1 6 5 1 10

SA 5 2 2 1 8 4 4 8

Botswana 5 2 1 2 7 6 1 7

CAR 5 1 0 4 4 10 -6 3.

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