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Spotlight back on Bafana

Maluti FET College’s brave run in the Nedbank Cup was finally ended by African Warriors on the weekend. While I felt the penalty shoot-out exposed their naivety at this level, they gave a great account of themselves throughout the competition and should be proud of their efforts.

While there were wins for the likes of Bloemfontein Celtic, Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United, it certainly wasn’t smooth sailing for those sides. However, they delivered the killer blow when it mattered most.

Clinton Larsen deserves credit for guiding Celtic to another Cup quarterfinal. I’m glad that there is still faith shown in local coaches and I believe that it’s imperative managers are afforded time and patience even in the current climate where hiring and firing is common practice.

Celtic’s next Cup opponents, Chiefs, took some time to wrest control against Polokwane City. They lacked cohesion in the final third until Sthembiso Ngcobo broke the deadlock. I felt the booing and substitution gestures aimed at Siyabonga Nkosi were unjustified as his vision created Chiefs’ opening goal.

After Saturdays clash, Stuart Baxter was defensive when certain members of the media insinuated that he had rested key players for the national cause. Baxter is entitled to manage his side the way he sees fit and it’s key to rotate your squad approaching the league and cup run-in.

That said, I believe it’s vital that league managers have a good working relationship with the national coach. From personal experience, there was a clear lack of dialogue between the two parties in the past. However, from what I’ve heard, Gordon Igesund has been engaging the PSL coaches.

We now head into the international break, which tends to hurt the rhythm of many teams. While it often favours the smaller sides not affected by national call-ups, a team like AmaZulu will not be best pleased having registered back-to-back wins in the league.

Bafana Bafana continue their quest for World Cup qualification when they face the Central African Republic on Saturday. Their opponents, second on the group standings, will put up a real fight at the Cape Town Stadium.

As a side, they are compact and I have no doubt that they will play with one striker upfront and look to put as many men as possible behind the ball.

South Africa should therefore plan accordingly and pick an offensive side. For me, Gordon could even go with a 3-5-2 formation owing to the importance of winning this game. Five in the middle allows you to dominate the centre of the park, with the wingbacks pushing up on attack and back on defence.

Bafana’s game plan should be all about getting width and depth. Our midfielders need to make runs from deep and get in behind the defence so that CAR have constant threats to worry about.

In terms of team selection, I was surprised to see Bongani Khumalo completely omitted from the side. However, he did struggle during Afcon and was caught out on a few occasions at the back.

He finds himself in a difficult situation and will have to play himself back into form in order to return to the Bafana fold.

From a personal perspective, I have always believed that consistency of performance remains the best measure for a captain. It’s key to be on top of your game week-in and week-out to earn the respect of your teammates. As a captain you don’t have to scream and shout – delivering a strong performance is far more powerful.

Owing to Khumalo’s axing and Siyabonga Sangweni’s injury, Gordon will be forced to select a completely new centre back pairing for this crucial clash.

Morgan Gould will certainly come into the starting side. He’s solid at the back and has the knack of scoring goals ala Sangweni. It’s an opportunity for someone to take their chance by partnering him in defence. I would opt for 21-year-old Siyanda Xulu. He has the potential.

While I have heard the cries from many fans calling for the inclusion of Andile Jali, for me the Pirates player hasn’t really been on top of his game of late and needs to do more to earn a Bafana recall.

What has been pleasing to see is that dropping Siphiwe Tshabalala to the bench during Afcon proved good for his game. He has looked really sharp of late for Chiefs and is an example Jali can follow.

In order to build momentum from Afcon, Bafana need to start winning consistently. Winning breeds confidence, which in turn enables the players to deliver improved performances.

I’m backing Bafana to win 2-0. The side will be aware that they have to score early on to put the visitors under pressure.

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