ON BACK FOOT FOR AF­CON

Da Gama not in the camp against Mau­ri­ta­nia, as he must guide the U-23s

CityPress - - Sport - TI­MOTHY MOLOBI ti­mothy@city­press.co.za

Bafana Bafana’s tech­ni­cal team will be de­pleted for the crunch Africa Cup of Na­tions (Af­con) qual­i­fier against Mau­ri­ta­nia that kicks off at 7pm SA time in Nouak­chott on Satur­day. The team will be with­out as­sis­tant coach Owen Da Gama, who will be with the na­tional Un­der-23 side in Tu­nisia for two friendly matches.

Da Gama’s side is pre­par­ing for the CAF African Un­der-23 Cham­pi­onship in Sene­gal in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber. That tour­na­ment will be used as the Olympic qual­i­fier, with the top three coun­tries qual­i­fy­ing to rep­re­sent the con­ti­nent at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

In June, Da Gama joined Bafana on the eve of their open­ing qual­i­fier against Gam­bia, as he was in­volved with his side in a friendly en­counter against Egypt.

Safa con­firmed that only Thabo Senong would be on the bench to as­sist coach Shakes Mashaba.

Last week, Mashaba em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of this game, say­ing he would drum it into his troops that it was a must-win.

Mashaba’s only con­cern was the fit­ness of his charges, as most of them had just started play­ing com­pet­i­tively over the past few weeks fol­low­ing a lengthy re­cess.

How­ever, the good news for Bafana was how striker Tokelo Rantie played a part in Bournemouth’s 4-0 drub­bing of League 2 side Hartle­pool in the League Cup on Wed­nes­day night.

Rantie missed Bafana’s pre­vi­ous en­counter as he was get­ting mar­ried and did not fea­ture in the open­ing three matches of Bournemouth’s Premier­ship sched­ule.

Thu­lani Serero should also be in a good frame of mind fol­low­ing Ajax Am­s­ter­dam coach Frank de Boer’s pro­nounce­ment that they would keep the midfielder. The club had ear­lier said it was open to of­fers for Serero, who has yet to play in this cam­paign af­ter in­jur­ing his an­kle in pre­sea­son train­ing in July.

Dean Fur­man also has two games un­der his belt for Su­perS­port United. He played against Mpumalanga Black Aces and Jomo Cos­mos.

Bafana are look­ing to bounce back from their dis­ap­point­ing start, when they were held to a goal­less draw by Gam­bia at home.

Mashaba said it would be im­per­a­tive to pile the pres­sure on log lead­ers Cameroon, who visit Gam­bia.

With only the top teams and two best run­ners-up qual­i­fy­ing for the 2017 tour­na­ment in Gabon, Mashaba knows any­thing less than a vic­tory in Mau­ri­ta­nia will be a se­ri­ous set­back.

Bafana be­gin their camp to­mor­row and leave on Thurs­day.

PHOTO: MUZI NTOMBELA / BACKPAGEPIX PHOTO: SYD­NEY MAHLANGU / BACKPAGEPIX

DUTY CALLS Owen Da Gama will

miss Bafana’s game, as he will be with his un­der23 team DE­PLETED Ephraim Shakes Mashaba will be with­out Owen Da Gama on Satur­day

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