Cape Town – Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter explains the difficult decision to select a 23-man squad for the upcoming 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
The Scotsman announced the squad on Sunday afternoon with several surprising omissions including Orlando Pirates’ Ben Motshwari and Cape Town City forward Kermit Erasmus.
Meanwhile, Keagan Dolly was not included due to injury which saw him pull out of the COSAFA CUP squad as well.
"This has not been an easy process," said the national head coach as quoted by the SowetanLIVE.
"It's certainly not made easier when we've had issues within the camp.
"We had the early injury to Keagan Dolly‚ which was a blow.
"Then Rivaldo called on the day of the assembly and told us of his mother's very serious illness‚ and after that, we haven't heard anything from him.
"And over the last few days we've had one player - we won't mention a name - who's been under enormous pressure from his family to attend a ceremony‚ which he has finally decided he won't attend.
"And from no disrespect to his family‚ but out of his passion for the national team - and we're very pleased with that."
With Rivaldo Coetzee having to withdraw from the squad, Baxter revealed that he opted not to select extra cover for the centre-back positions.
"We've tried to put together a balanced squad that gives us options tactically. I think the strength of the squad is the togetherness of the squad. It's been very difficult to achieve that balance,” he said.
"We lost a centre-back‚ and we've only probably in the last few days realised that we were not going to get him into the squad.
"And then you have the question‚ do you replace a centre-back‚ or do you keep a centreback from within the squad?
"We have Sifiso Hlanti who can play centreback‚ we have 'Rama' [Ramahlwe Mphahlele] who can play centreback.
"Both of whom had small injuries [on Saturday].
"Now most of the centre-backs [outside the Bafana squad] have not been doing anything for the last few weeks.
"So do you now take one from the Cosafa Cup? We decided that we would solve this in-house.
"To achieve that balance has been very difficult. When we thought we were going to lose one of our players to a cultural issue‚ we made that decision‚ 'No‚ we can cover it from within the squad'.
"I think the strength of the squad is going to be the harmony of the squad. It's going to be the 'We' feeling. And it's going to be the feeling that the players are going to be very goal orientated.
"And probably that the players feel a little bit underdogs and we can create a bit of a siege mentality."
South African will face Ghana and Angola in friendly matches before opening their AFCON campaign against Senegal on June 24.
Bafana and Senegal are joined in Group D by Namibia and Morocco.
Full Bafana Bafana Squad for AFCON 2019:
Darren Keet (Wits), Bruce Bvuma (Kaizer Chiefs), Rowen Williams (Supersport)
Daniel Cardoso (Kaizer Chiefs) , Ramahlwe Mphahlele (Kaizer Chiefs), Thulani Hlatshwayo (Wits), Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates), Sifiso Hlanti (Wits), Buhle Mkhawanazi (Wits), Thamsanqa Mkhize (Cape Town City).
Bongani Zungu (Amiens), Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns), Dean Furman (SuperSport United), Kamohelo Mokotjo (Brentford), Tiyani Mabunda (Mamelodi Sundowns), Thulani Serero (Vitesse), Thembinkosi Lorch (Orlando Pirates), Themba Zwane (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Lebo Mothiba (Strasbourg), Percy Tau (Royal St Union), Lars Veldwijk (Sparta Rotterdam), Lebogang Maboe (Mamelodi Sundowns), Sibusiso Vilakazi (Mamelodi Sundowns)