The Star Late Edition

More Bafana chaos may lead to a Bata toughie


NKARENG MATSHE A DEPLETED Bafana Bafana departed for Equatorial Guinea yesterday, where they will play a friendly against the African Nations Cup co-hosts on Friday.

But Bafana’s departure would not have been complete without the usual chaos that seems to precede every one of their camps.

Pitso Mosimane’s team had to withdraw goalkeeper Darren Keet from the travelling party after his club, KV Kortrijk, of Belgium, refused to release him, citing a late call-up.

Mosimane then sent an SOS to Platinum Stars for the services of their keeper Siyabonga Mpontshane, who by all accounts will serve as understudy to Thanda Royal Zulu’s Brilliant Khuzwayo, who is also uncapped.

Friday’s match at Bata, one of the host cities for the Nations Cup finals which kick off on January 21, has been declared a full internatio­nal, meaning caps will be awarded and the result would affect the teams’ Fifa rankings.

While Equatorial Guinea are expected to field their strongest possible team as they prepare for the Nations Cup, in which they are in the same group as Zambia, Senegal and Libya, Bafana have many untested players in their squad following the decision of Orlando Pirates, Golden Arrows and Mamelodi Sundowns to bar their players from travelling to the west African nation.

The decision of the three clubs robbed Mosimane’s team of some invaluable experience, as men such as Thanduyise Khuboni (Arrrows), Teko Modise, Katlego Mphela (both Sundowns) and Siyabonga Sangweni and Moeneeb Josephs (Pirates) were all expected to start in only the third meeting between South Africa and oil- rich Equatorial Guinea.

Nicknamed Nzalang Nacional, Equatorial Guinea lost both of their previous games against Bafana, in 2008, when Joel Santana’s struggling side won 4-1 in Tshwane and 1-0 in Malabo in a failed attempt to qualify for the 2010 Nations Cup finals.

This year’s continenta­l championsh­ip, which Equatorial Guinea are co-hosting with Gabon, marks the west Africans’ first-ever appearance at an internatio­nal tournament.

Bafana have been boosted by the presence of overseasba­sed players Siboniso Gaxa, Daylon Claasen and Bradley Grobler, but all eyes will be on Sweden-based May Mahlangu, of whom a lot has been heard and little seen.

Morgan Gould and Reneilwe Letsholony­ane are the most experience­d members of the 22-man squad which will be looking for Bafana’s first win in five games when they face the Guineans at the 40 000seat Estadio de Bata (kick-off 8.30pm SA time).

Bafana travelled via a charter flight and should return on Saturday ahead of next week’s matches against Zambia (January 11) in Atteridgev­ille and Ghana (January 15) in Rustenburg.

Both of these matches have been downgraded to practice games as Bafana’s foreign legion will have departed for their clubs.

“It was felt that it would be unfair to play Zambia and Ghana in official games with a weak team when they would both be fielding their strongest teams,” a Safa insider said.

Zambia and Ghana have been training in South Africa ahead of the Nations Cup, with the Zambians understood to have chosen the High Performanc­e Centre in Tshwane and the Ghanaians said to be based at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus.

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