Khumalo, Mphela out of Bafana squad
Bongani Khumalo was left out of the Bafana Bafana squad to play Central African Republic on March 23 due to lack of action at his Greek club POAK Salonika.
Coach Gordon Igesund said his decision was purely based on the player’s activity or lack thereof. In his absence, Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune will take the captain’s armband.
Also missing from the squad is Mamelodi Sundowns striker Katlego Mphela, who was heavily criticised after the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations. Igesund called up three players - Bernard Parker (Kaizer Chiefs), Dino Ndlovu (Maccabi Haifa) and Tokelo Rantie (Malmo FF) - to lead the attack.
Orlando Pirates defender Siyabonga Sangweni was included in the squad despite an earlier pronouncement from his club that he was not fit to travel to Zambia this weekend. Pirates play Zanaco in the African Champions League.
South Africa resumes the “Road to Brazil” campaign with a crunch match against the Central African opponents that will be played on Saturday, 23 March 2013 at the Cape Town Stadium. Kick-off 8:15pm.
“This is a huge match for us. We are in a position where we should not be because I believe at this stage of the competition we should have been top of the group. We need to win this one to keep ourselves in the race. That is why I have gone for a very offensive team. Hopefully, we can resume this campaign on a good note. There is no room for error,” said Igesund.
The Bafana Bafana mentor has made five changes to the squad that played in the Afcon 2013 tournament, with defenders Siboniso Gaxa and captain Khumalo making way for Russia-based Siyanda Xulu and Morgan Gould of Kaizer Chiefs.
Belgium-based Daylon Claasen makes a return after a long lay-off and is joined in the squad by Dino Ndlovu, who plays in Israel, and Daine Klate of Orlando Pirates. Thulani Serero, Mphela and the injured Lehlohonolo Majoro have failed to make the cut.
“As you can see, I did not make too many changes because I believe in continuity. We need to continue from where we left off in the Afcon tournament. I still believe we have a good chance of qualifying for Brazil in 2014, provided we win our upcoming match and go and do well in the two away matches,” added Igesund.
The coach has also included a 24th player in the squad, SuperSport United goalkeeper Ronwen Williams, to join the team during camp to learn. The 21-year-old will not be selected to play against CAR.
“I think it is very important for us to start identifying the younger players who will be the stars of the 2018 World Cup, so it’s crucial that I take this opportunity to call up one or two of these youngsters to join the national team on a regular basis to be part of the set-up, to feel the environment, to get used to the situation and slowly introduce them to the action,” said the coach.
“Ronwen has been playing very well. He is still a youngster though, but if you bring him into the national team fold and let him train with Khune, Sandilands and Meyiwa, it will do him the world of good. There are other youngsters who I am looking at and will be inviting to Bafana Bafana just for them to get used to the set-up. We must take this opportunity to blood them in.”
After two rounds of matches, Bafana Bafana are in third place in Group A of the qualifiers, following draws against Ethiopia and Botswana in 2012.
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune (Kaizer Chiefs), Wayne Sandilands (Sundowns), Senzo Meyiwa (Orlando Pirates)
Defender: Morgan Gould (Kaizer Chiefs), Siyabonga Sangweni (Orlando Pirates), Thabo Nthethe (Bloemfontein Celtic), Anele Ngcongca (Racing Genk), Siyanda Xulu (Rostov FC), Tsepo Masilela (Kaizer Chiefs), Thabo Matlaba (Orlando Pirates)
Midfielders: Kagisho Dikgacoi (Crystal Palace), Dean Furman (Oldham Athletic), Reneilwe Letsholonyane (Kaizer Chiefs), Oupa Manyisa (Orlando Pirates), May Mahlangu (Helsingborg), Daylon Claasen (Lierse), Lerato Chabangu (Swallows), Thuso Phala (Platinum Stars), Siphiwe Tshabalala (Kaizer Chiefs), Daine Klate (Orlando Pirates)
Strikers: Bernard Parker (Kaizer Chiefs), Dino Ndlovu (Maccabi Haifa), Tokelo Rantie (Malmo FF).