United duo left out

2014-12-31 00:00

BAFANA Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba yesterday named his 23-man squad who will do battle at next month’s 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.

There was disappointment from a Maritzburg United perspective, with defender Kwanda Mngonyama and winger Mondli Cele both culled from the preliminary squad of 34 who had been in a Johannesburg training camp since Boxing Day.

Cele was one of the surprise call-ups to that camp and was always a long shot to book his ticket to Afcon. But Mngon­yama would have fancied his chances after being a regular member of the squad through qualifying despite not getting onto the pitch. He would, however, earn his debut in an international friendly in a 2-0 win over Ivory Coast on November 30. But it wasn’t to be, and Mashaba has instead opted for Wits’ Thulani Hlatshwyo as the likely centre-back cover for Erick Mathoho (Kaizer Chiefs) and rookie Rivaldo Coetzee (Ajax Cape Town). Belgium-based Anele Ngcongca can also move across from fullback to centre-back if required.

The broader talking point yesterday was the omission of Ajax Amsterdam playmaker and Bafana superstar Thulani Serero from the squad. Ajax had reportedly requested that Serero be rested during this week’s training camp, and the player did not take part as a result. That was always going to be a problem for Mashaba, who has never hesitated to leave out big names if their commitment to the national cause has come into question.

“This was a very hectic exercise and if you look at all the players that were here, it was not easy to select the final 23,” Mashaba said.

“We still want to say to those who have been selected, this is a perfect opportunity for you, grab it with both hands because selection is not permanent. You still have to go out, work hard and make your country proud.

“To those who missed out, it is not the end of the world, there are more competitions coming, which means more opportunities again.”

There is a return to the national set-up for fit-again Chiefs striker Bernard Parker, who has not played for Bafana since their 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Brazil back in March. Parker has scored 23 goals for his country, putting him third on the all-time highest goal scorers list behind only Shaun Bartlett and Benni McCarthy.

His inclusion will provide competition to AmaZulu’s target man Bongani Ndulula, who has been a favourite of Mashaba’s in qualifying but will surely battle to warrant a start ahead of Parker.

It was also confirmed yesterday that Bafana will play two friendlies against Cameroon in Libreville on January 10 and then Gabon on either January 13 or 14. They will also play against Zambia at Orlando Stadium on January 4 before departing for Gabon on January 6.

Bafana Bafana Afcon 2015 squad

Goalkeepers: Darren Keet, Brilliant Khuzwayo, Jackson Mabokgwane

Defenders: Siyabonga Nhlapo, Patrick Phungwayo, Anele Ngcongca, Thulani Hlatswayo, Eric Mathoho, Rivaldo Coetzee, Thabo Matlaba

Midfielders: Themba Zwane, Andile Jali, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Bongani Zungu, Thamsanqa Sangweni, Dean Furman, Thuso Phala, Mandla Masango, Oupa Manyisa

Strikers: Bongani Ndulula, Tokelo Rantie, Bernard Parker, Sibusiso Vilakazi

Bafana Bafana Afcon fixtures

January 19 v Algeria

January 23 v Senegal

January 27 v Ghana.

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