Pitso to gauge youngsters in Zim

2011-11-14 12:43

Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane says he will use the side’s last fixture of the year, a friendly international against Zimbabwe in Harare tomorrow, to gauge the young players in his squad.

The South Africans will carry the favourites tag into the match, despite the Zimbabwean Warriors boasting a more experienced squad.

They departed for Harare yesterday, a day after playing to a 1-1 draw against Ivory Coast, the top-ranked team in Africa, in Port Elizabeth.

“This is a regional derby, we know,” Mosimane said.

“I compare this game to the one we played against Tanzania where we gave players first caps. We play a team that has been there together and played in the recent Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, and we know 80% of their squad play in South Africa.

“Besides, with the likes of Khama Billiat and Knowledge Musona, we are not talking about a convincing win for us here. We should go out there and see what our youngsters are made of. Let’s give them a chance and take things one step at a time.”

Mamelodi Sundowns defender Punch Masenamela, who will slot into the troubled left-back position, is set to earn his first start in a Bafana jersey.

Mosimane hopes to find a permanent understudy for the injury-prone Tsepo Masilela ahead of next year’s World Cup qualifying matches and the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

Outside of the Spanish-based Masilela on the left of defence, there is a dearth of international quality available in that position, forcing Mosimane to field right-footed Siboniso Gaxa whenever Masilela has not been available.

“We have to play Punch and see what he has, because he has to start,” Mosimane said.

“Tsepo has been picking up a lot of injuries lately, and we all know that he didn’t have a good pre-season because he didn’t have a club and was in South Africa training with the Moroka Swallows reserve team.”

Mosimane did not include eight of his senior players for the trip to Harare, opting to rest captain Steven Pienaar, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Anele Ngcongca, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siyabonga Sangweni, Masilela and Gaxa.

Striker Brad Grobler, who plies his trade in Turkey, is also likely to make his senior international debut.

Grobler has a knack for scoring goals – Bafana’s biggest problem at the moment, especially if Katlego Mphela does not play.

Other players expected to earn some game time include talented goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands, Bevan Fransman in defence, the energetic young duo of George Lebese and George Maluleka in midfield, and striker Siyabonga Nontshinga.

Perhaps more importantly, the artificial grass at Rufaro Stadium will give the team valuable experience, with some African countries using artificial surfaces, including Botswana – one of their World Cup qualifying opponents next year.

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