Shakes puts faith in the young­sters

Coach’s new cap­tain ex­pected to be a rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced player at in­ter­na­tional level for the all-im­por­tant Su­dan clash

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - KAM­LESH GO­SAI

BAFANA Bafana are not yet a slick unit and are thriv­ing largely on fresh faces des­per­ate to make a mark as they tar­get vic­tory over Su­dan in Dur­ban to­mor­row to book a spot in the next edi­tion of the Africa Cup of Na­tions.

So do not be caught “off­side” if the new cap­tain who will be named tonight turns out to be a rel­a­tive novice to in­ter­na­tional foot­ball, said se­nior na­tional team coach Ephraim Mashaba. Who­ever wears the arm­band on match day only pre­sides over the coin toss to de­cide which half the team will play from. Rather the coach’s choice of cap­tain will be based on the uni­fy­ing qual­ity that the per­son brings to the camp.

And as if to em­pha­sise the point that the Bafana Bafana en­gine is run­ning on new play­ers, Mashaba yes­ter­day roped in the PSL’s joint top scorer Moeketsi Sekola. The Free State Stars for­ward was set to join the camp yes­ter­day to fill one of two va­can­cies cre­ated by in­jury to mid­fielder Sibu­siso Vi­lakazi and the with­drawal of at­tacker May Mahlangu who was sub­se­quently banned in­def­i­nitely from na­tional se­lec­tion by Safa.

“A lot of peo­ple are bas­ing the se­lec­tion of the cap­tain on se­nior play­ers. Wait for sur­prises,” said the coach at the team ho­tel on Dur­ban beach­front yes­ter­day. “The duty of the cap­tain is to do the toss and say which way the team will face. We are not go­ing to ques­tion the ref­eree’s decision. We’re only look­ing at the camp and how the cap­tain brings ev­ery­one to­gether.”

The is­sue of the cap­taincy arises from the re­cent, tragic mur­der of Dur­ban-born goal­keeper Senzo Meyiwa, him­self a new­comer to the se­nior na­tional set-up. His death caused two voids in the squad, but Mashaba ex­pects the vi­brancy of youth to help over­come that set­back.

To­mor­row af­ter­noon’s penul­ti­mate qual­i­fy­ing match in Group A will be played in hon­our of Meyiwa.

The tie was shifted from the Mbombela Sta­dium to Meyiwa’s home city as a trib­ute to him. Kick-off at Moses Mab­hida Sta­dium is 3pm.

“With Senzo what hap­pened, hap­pened. We in­di­cated to the goal­keep­ers that the Senzo in­ci­dent is gone. All th­ese play­ers are look­ing to make their mark in that po­si­tion. We can only hope the play­ers’ minds are okay; this type of thing can make a very se­ri­ous im­pact on a player,” said Mashaba.

Who­ever be­tween Nh­lanhla Khuzwayo, Dar­ren Keet and Siyabonga Mpontshane is se­lected will have huge gloves to fill. Meyiwa was the back­bone of the side as he racked up four clean sheets. De­fen­sively the mis­sion will be to deny Su­dan width and con­tain them in the mid­dle of the park be­cause they are strong out wide, said Mashaba. That’s where the ex­pe­ri­ence of Reneilwe Let­sholonyane, 32, the old­est player in the squad, and Eng­land-based Dean Fur­man’s work ethic would be cru­cial in squeez­ing Su­dan for space.

An even big­ger chal­lenge lies at the op­po­site end where strik­ers Tokelo Rantie, Lehlo­honolo Ma­joro and Bon­gani Ndu­l­ula will search for South Africa’s first home goal and vic­tory. Three points will en­sure South Africa’s qual­i­fi­ca­tion. Su­dan lie bot­tom of the stand­ings with three points from one win – against Nige­ria – and are very much in the race if they win to­mor­row and against Congo in Khartoum on Wed­nes­day in their fi­nal group game.

Sekola prob­a­bly ar­rived too late to be con­sid­ered for this match, but com­pe­ti­tion for places else­where in the side should be enough to carry Bafana Bafana past the pres­sure bar­rier, reck­ons Mashaba. “We have not been do­ing well as a na­tional team. For us to be where we are, we have sur­prised our­selves. It’s a new team, ev­ery­one wants to make a mark, and that’s why we are where we are.”

PIC­TURE: GALLO IMAGES

PLENTY TO PON­DER: Shakes Mashaba has been sur­prised how well his ‘new, young Bafana’ team has done and is hop­ing for another pos­i­tive re­sult against Su­dan in Dur­ban to­mor­row.

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