Niger heat needs 90-min players

2011-08-20 22:07

Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane is worried that some of his key players are not physically fit enough to survive the scorching heat in Niger.

South Africa face Niger in ­Niamey in 14 days’ time in an African Nations Cup qualifying return leg that Bafana must win to virtually seal their top position in Group G and qualify for the finals in Equatorial Guinea/Gabon.

Mosimane is particularly ­concerned about the fitness ­levels of principal marksman Katlego Mphela.

“We need players who will last the full 90 minutes but Killer (Mphela) is behind with his fitness. He actually asked to be substituted in our last game against Burkina Faso. I wanted to keep him on for the entire game but he indicated that he was tired,” said Mosimane.

Despite not being fully fit, Mphela has netted three times in all the competitive matches he has played for club and country in the past two weeks.

“When I went there (Niger) for inspection the temperature was between 38 and 40 degrees and they have deliberately chosen 3.30pm as the kick-off time. They want to put us in the ­microwave,” said Mosimane.

His concern about Mphela’s condition was shared by the player’s coach at Mamelodi ­Sundowns, Johan Neeskens, who conceded that he was not at the level he should be.

“He was with us the first week and went to trials at Glasgow Rangers (in Scotland). He missed two important weeks of our pre-season when everyone was getting into the rhythm of playing games.”

Neeskens, however, said there was no special programme in place for his striker, who scored his first goal of the new season in Downs’ 2-0 win over Jomo Cosmos midweek.

“He is still not at the level he could be with his qualities. But with the many games it is ­impossible to put him on a ­special programme. We are giving him a bit more playing time.”

Players’ lack of fitness is the reason Mosimane is calling for a workshop with PSL clubs’ ­fitness trainers.

“I still believe that national team coaches must sit down with the clubs’ physical trainers to reach common ground in the players’ fitness programmes, but we need buy-in from the clubs.

“Last year I had good feedback from PSL coaches because we coordinated our programmes. I also have a good relationship with overseas clubs.”

Mosimane added that he was also concerned about the fitness of Tsepo Masilela, who has just signed for Getafe in Spain. Anele Ngcongca, Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Steven Pienaar are nursing knee injuries.

“Tsepo gave me a good game against Burkina Faso but he doesn’t get game time because he was only training with (Moroka) Swallows when he was still searching for a new club.”

“I spoke to Pienaar and he said he will be okay in four weeks’ time. His knee might no longer be painful but we doubt if he will be fully fit.”

Mosimane is expected to ­announce the team for Niger a week before the crucial game.

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