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Back in the fold


“We are looking at helping our players mentally to have the right attitude going into this match, irrespective of the scores of the first leg”

WITH Itumeleng Khune back to full fitness, the decision to call him up for the Bafana Bafana squad to take on Sao Tome in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers was a no-brainer – coach Molefi Ntseki explained yesterday.

The second most-capped Bafana player of all time, with 91 caps, hasn’t been in the team since picking up a shoulder injury in December 2018.

That injury not only robbed him of the remainder of the season at Kaizer Chiefs, but it also denied him of a chance to be in the Bafana team that reached the quarter-finals of the Afcon in Egypt last year.

Darren Keet and Ronwen Williams shared the No 1 jersey in his absence, helping the side qualify for the showpiece and then stun Egypt once they were at the Afcon.

Khune, who has had limited game time at Chiefs this season because of Daniel Akpeyi’s heroics, will battle for the No 1 jersey with Williams and Brandon Petersen for the back-to-back matches against Sao Tome. Bafana will host the Islanders on March 27 and then visit them on the 31st.

“I am fully aware that Itumeleng Khune hasn’t played,” Ntseki said. “In our meeting with coach Ernst Middendorp, I made him aware that we might select Khune. We had an interesting conversation about Itumeleng Khune. He ended up saying to me that Khune and Daniel are the No 1s at Chiefs, the difference is that Daniel is currently doing well.

“By the way Daniel also got a call-up to be in the national team of Nigeria.

“A playing Khune is the No 1 at Kaizer Chiefs. A playing Khune with his qualities and experience is a player to be considered for the national team. When you look at the six goalkeepers that we profiled for Bafana Bafana going into camp, we realised that it is only Williams who is playing regularly.”

The match against Sao Tome will test Bafana’s mental resolve coming up against a team they are expected to easily beat. That hasn’t worked out well in the past as Bafana have struggled against so-called minnows.

“Sao Tome on paper appears to be an easy opponent,” Ntseki said.

“My experience has taught me not to look down upon my football opponents because of what happened when we played against Seychelles at FNB Stadium with coach Stuart (Baxter),” Ntseki added.

“We won that match 6-0 and we had to fly to Seychelles to play them at home, we were looking forward to collecting maximum points but we ended getting a point. We put ourselves in a lot of pressure going into the last match against Libya in Tunisia, it’s a repeat of that situation.

“We are playing Sao Tome and everyone is saying ‘who is Sao Tome?’. But we should also be reasonable and responsible because if we keep saying all the negative things about Sao Tome, that will affect the players, because we have a situation in this country where players will be saying who is Sao Tome and we end up putting ourselves under a lot of pressure.

“We are looking at helping our players mentally to have the right attitude going into this match, irrespective of the scores of the first leg.

All that we are looking for is to get maximum points, maximum points will put us in a very good position especially since we have to play Ghana in June and the last game away in Sudan.”

Full squad

Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune, Ronwen Williams and Brandon Petersen

Defenders: Erick Mathoho, Reeve Frosler, Buhle Mkhwanazi, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Sifiso Hlanti, Gladwin Shitolo, Innocent Maela Mosa Lebusa and Thabo Matlaba

Midfielders: Andile Jali, Themba Zwane, George Maluleka, Lebogang Manyama, Dean Furman, Teboho Mokoena, Lebogang Phiri, Thembinkosi Lorch, Percy Tau and Thulani Serero.

Strikers: Lebo Mothiba, Bradley Grobler and Thabiso Kutumela

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