The Mercury

Pienaar not so happy

- Jonty Mark

IT WAS a yell as chilling as the ice-cold day that cut into the bones of Joburg yesterday morning.

Steven Pienaar collapsed to the Rand Stadium turf, and immediatel­y one sensed there was trouble. The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder had already come into this Bafana training camp fending off groin and thigh injuries.

The Bafana captain was patched up and ready to play for his country, putting off a potential operation until after Sunday’s 2102 African Nations Cup qualifier with Egypt in Cairo (Cairo Military Stadium, kick-off 8.30pm).

But fate may well have intervened. The collision with Happy Jele, as the players flew into a challenge, was hard and fearless, and had “Schillo” hobbling from the field, his right knee potentiall­y badly damaged.

The look of disappoint­ment on his face appeared to say it all, as he spent the rest of the session on the sidelines.

“He’s struggling,” admitted Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane afterwards.

“You all saw Steven went into a 50/50 with Happy and obviously sustained an injury on the inside of his right knee – the ligament.

“We have two days before the game, so let’s see. Maybe it will subside, you never know. I must wait and see what the doctor says. But these things happen – you get injured in training because this is a profession­al sport.”

The team were set to jet out to Cairo late last night, and Mosimane said that Pienaar would definitely be on the plane.

“I will wait until the last moment to take the decision,” he said. “Even if it is on the day of the match. I’m just going to try not to be emotional about it.

“It wouldn’t be nice, obviously (if Pienaar is ruled out), but my experience tells me things like this happen sometimes.

“We have 23 players in the squad, and if he can’t be there then what can you do?”

Mosimane added that Pienaar’s potential absence would not change the way Bafana play in Cairo. “We won’t change the game plan – it is too late. We will stay with our tactics because messing around with the team ruins the balance.”

The replacemen­t for Pienaar depends on Mosimane’s original tactics. The Bafana coach, needing only a point against the Pharaohs, could choose to go into the game with three defensive midfielder­s – most likely Andile Jali, Reneilwe Letsholony­ane and Kagiso Dikgacoi.

If he does this, then Siphiwe Tshabalala is an obvious choice in the attacking midfield role, and Mosimane has confirmed that the Kaizer Chiefs winger will captain the side if Pienaar is absent.

Should Mosimane go for a more courageous approach in Cairo, he may well pick another attack-minded midfielder to partner Tshabalala. Orlando Pirates winger Tlou Segolela could then come into the picture.

Mosimane indicated that he would persist with two up front, with Bernard Parker set to partner Katlego Mphela.

“I don’t remember playing with one striker the whole time I have been Bafana coach,” said Mosimane.

“We went to Sierra Leone and played with three strikers. But, if the game tells me to change, then I have no problem doing that.”

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 ?? PICTURE: GALLO IMAGES ?? Steven Pienaar lies injured after colliding with Happy Jele during Bafana’s training session at Rand Stadium in Joburg yesterday.
PICTURE: GALLO IMAGES Steven Pienaar lies injured after colliding with Happy Jele during Bafana’s training session at Rand Stadium in Joburg yesterday.
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