Lepasa over Foster? Bafana coach explains strange decision that paid off in Liberia

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Zakhele Lepasa (Gallo Images)
Zakhele Lepasa (Gallo Images)
  • Bafana Bafana have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations after beating Liberia on Tuesday.
  • Head coach Hugo Broos explained why he opted to use Zakhele Lepasa with Lyle Foster on the bench.
  • SA will join Morocco from Group K in the Afcon draw later this year, with the date to be confirmed.

Bafana Bafana head coach Hugo Broos has explained his decision to start Zakhele Lepasa ahead of Lyle Foster in their 2-1 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier victory against Liberia in Monrovia.

The 70-year-old caught the South African football-loving nation by surprise when he benched Foster in one of five changes in the must-win clash at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium on Tuesday.

The Burnley striker was a crucial weapon in Bafana's disappointing 2-2 draw against Liberia in Soweto last Friday, with Foster netting a brace.

But the 22-year-old Foster, Aubrey Modiba, Luke le Roux, Bongokuhle Hlongwane and Themba Zwane were all replaced as Broos looked to amend his wrongs following the events at Orlando Stadium.

Broos opted for SuperSport United's on-loan Orlando Pirates forward, Lepasa, Innocent Maela, Sphephelo Sithole, Mihlali Mayambela and Sydney Mobbie for the return leg in western Africa.

It was a move that paid off in the end, as goals from Lepasa and Mayambela ensured Bafana's team management can now begin travelling preparations for Afcon in Ivory Coast next year.

Speaking to reporters, Broos admits that while he wanted more energy upfront, in terms of pace and pressing, but also added that Foster had indeed been feeling unwell.

"Yeah, that was not so good Friday. We didn't have depth in our in our game," Broos told reporters during his post-match press conference on Tuesday.

"When we lost the ball, there was no immediately pressing. And I know with Zakhele, he's a guy who runs 90 minutes, and he scored a fantastic goal.

"He's very quick. And he was always there. All game, he was present. So that's why we changed Zakhele.

"And also, I have to say that Lyle didn't feel well this morning. We wouldn't take a risk because we knew that we needed players who were 100%. And, again, I think the decision was right."

Bafana, who have accumulated five points in Group K, book their place in Afcon despite a final matchday in June against the group's leaders, Morocco.

The Atlas Lions (6 points) also qualified for the Nations Cup after their victories against Bafana and Liberia last year.

South Africa advanced ahead of Liberia because they now have superior points in head-to-head matches among tied teams, according to CAF's Regulations Article 14. 

The group consists of three teams: Morocco, Liberia and South Africa. Zimbabwe were initially part of the group but were banned from qualifying for the tournament after their government's interference in the sport's administration.

Meanwhile, Broos and his Bafana charges are expected back in the country on Wednesday evening.

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