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Bafana to clash with Mambas as they kick off bid for sixth Cosafa title

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Bafana assistant coach Helman Mkhalele, who will stand in as head coach for this tournament, will have just two players from the 23-man squad that represented the nation in the last edition.

Helman Mkhalele, South Africa’s stand-in Cosafa Cup coach. Picture: Gavin Barker, BackpagePix

THE SOUTH African national team have set their sights on claiming a sixth Cosafa title ahead of their opening match against Mozambique on Wednesday.

South Africa will once again welcome teams from the southern African region for the 23rd edition of the Cosafa Cup, with the city of Gqeberha playing hosts this time around.

Bafana Bafana will play the Black Mambas at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium at 6pm with the hopes of kicking off their tournament on a positive note.

Eswatini and Botswana play the first match of the competition at the same venue at 3pm.

The Cosafa Cup has traditionally been a breeding ground for talent in the region and it is no different this year, as nations will be represented by some of the top prospects their clubs have to offer.

Bafana assistant coach Helman Mkhalele (who will stand in as head coach for this tournament) will have just two players from the 23-man squad that represented the nation in the last edition.

He expressed the need for this group to exhibit the requisite quality and temperament to boost the selection pool for head coach Hugo Broos.

“As we observed during the Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast earlier this year, the football on the continent has improved drastically. So, for us to sustain the current performance of Bafana Bafana and improve it, it is important that we have players that can perform at that level without any doubt,” he said.

AmaZulu’s Olwethu Mzimela and Stellenbosch FC defender Athenkosi Mcaba will return once more and are expected to lead the other 21 players who will feature in this tournament for the first time.

Mzimela made his debut for Usuthu last season and kept the club’s captain and usual No.1 Veli Mothwa on the bench for some time as he impressed many who didn’t know of his prowess at junior levels.

Mothwa had made a name for himself in a Bafana shirt in this competition as he went the entire tournament without conceding a goal and helped the nation win their last title in 2021.

While Mzimela will be eager to follow in those footsteps between the posts, the likes of Ashley Cupido, Thabang Sibanyoni, Sinoxolo Kwayiba and Yanela Mbuthuma will have their sights on emulating the journey of Iqraam Rayners.

The Stellies forward is arguably the best striker in the land at the moment having recorded 25 goal involvements last season, fresh off his showing in the Cosafa Cup last year.

Mkhalele undoubtedly has a tough task on his hands in terms of forming a high-performing team in the space of just over a week, and hurdles are expected along the way as the players familiarise themselves with each other.

Kaizer Chiefs man Dove Edmilson will once again lead a fairly inexperienced Mozambique team in this tournament and will be looking to dampen moods in South Africa from the get-go.

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