Morocco an opportunity to test Bafana youngsters

2013-10-11 00:00

GORDON Igesund is likely to use tonight’s international friendly in Agadir as an opportunity to gauge the progress of his youngsters when Bafana Bafana take on Morocco.

With Bafana’s hopes of participating in the 2014 World Cup now extinguished, the immediate focus turns to the 2015 African Cup of Nations — a tournament that Bafana need to be a part of.

Qualifiers for the continental showpiece are likely to take place between September and November next year, meaning that Igesund has roughly a year to get his troops ready.

The coach said earlier this week that he was prepared to lose matches such as tonight’s game if it meant Bafana were in better shape for the Afcon qualifiers and their quest to qualify for Russia’s 2018 World Cup.

That suggests that there could be opportunities for the likes of Kgosietsile Ntlhe (19), Sibusiso Vilakazi (23), Ayanda Patosi (20), Daylon Claasen (23) and Bongani Zungu (20) tonight.

But with a blend of youth and inexperience at his disposal, Igesund will turn to some of the more familiar faces in his bid to secure a result.

“It would be great to see how some of our youngsters will fare against the best in the game.

“We have to be brave at times and use these youngsters. But we need to introduce them gradually into the system,” the coach told SuperSport.

One youngster experiencing his first taste of international football is SuperSport United goalkeeper Ronwen Williams.

With first-choice ’keeper and captain Itumeleng Khune almost assured of getting the nod tonight, Williams is using the Moroccan experience as an opportunity to learn from those around him.

“It is an honour to be a part of this team. Itu [Khune] told me to relax and have fun, so that is what I have done,” Williams told Safa’s website yesterday.

“I have been waiting for this moment for a long time.

“It is every player’s dream to represent their country. This is where it starts — with the first call-up.

“I hope to be a part of the national team until I retire. Hopefully that dream can come true,” Williams said.

With Kagisho Dikgacoi and Kamohelo Mokotjo having pulled out of the original 23-man squad, it appears that the reliable pairing of Dean Furman and Reneilwe Letsholonyane will start for Bafana in the engine room.

There is more stability up front, where Tokelo Rantie, Bernard Parker and Kermit Erasmus pick up where they left off in Bafana’s last World Cup qualifier against Botswana.

Erasmus probably has the most to prove and the Orlando Pirates man is determined to get to the top of Igesund’s pecking order.

“I would love to play against Morocco,” Erasmus told his club’s website.

“I know that if I keep working hard I will always be remembered by the national team coaches and being in the team can only help me improve my game.

“I have to keep working and build on what I have so that I’m prepared to play at the highest level,” he said.

It seems like everywhere you look, there are battles for places shaping up.

Moroka Swallows playmaker Lerato Chabangu will be desperate to convince Igesund that he warrants a place in midfield, while Patosi and Claasen will also relish an opportunity.

FC Rostov’s Siyanda Xulu, former captain Bongani Khumalo and Bloemfontein Celtic’s Thabo Nthethe appear set to fight it out for a place in central defence, while Ntlhe could be used a replacement for the more experienced Tsepo Masilela at left back.

Whichever way Igesund decides to go, he must bear in mind that while a result may not be of the utmost importance, Bafana simply cannot afford to slide any further down the Fifa rankings. They are currently ranked 68th.

Tonight’s match starts at 9 pm and will be televised on SuperSport Four.

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