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BRING ON THE BACKBONE

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With Gould and Yeye suspended, Tinkler must find players with grit ahead of cup encounters

MORE THAN CAPABLE: Supersport United FCs Tefu Mashamaite (left) can fill in the gaping hole left by Morgan Goulds absence.

ERIC Tinkler has some time to consider more options to replace the suspended duo of defender Morgan Gould and midfielder Reneilwe Letsholonyane ahead of SuperSport United’s Caf Confederation Cup final first leg clash away to TP Mazembe next month, but two candidates stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The coach has already mentioned Tefu Mashamaite as a stand-in for Gould, while young Sipho Mbule is an automatic choice for Letsholonyane as he is the only other midfielder – along with out of favour Cole Alexander – that has been registered for the competition.

Here we look at the two players in the build-up to the two-legged final and consider their form so far in the minimal game time they have managed under Tinkler.

Tefu Mashamaite

Age: 33

Favourite position: Left-sided centreback

A 2015 PSL Footballer of the Year, the ex-Kaizer Chiefs defender hasn’t been at his best since leaving the Glamour Boys shortly after winning the league with them and claiming that top individual honour.

He returned to join SuperSport after spending a year playing in Sweden, but had to undergo a knee surgery that kept him out for much of his first season back in South Africa. He’s found it tough to break into the team now that he is fit again.

The partnership between Clayton Daniels and Gould is the main reason why he is playing only as cover for now. But Tinkler rates him highly, having worked with him at Bidvest Wits in the past, and the coach was full of praise for the defender when he came off the bench in the 3-1 away win in the semi-final of the Confederations Cup against Club Africain in Tunisia on Sunday.

Mashamaite featured quite a lot for SuperSport in the early rounds of the competition as then coach Stuart Baxter was forced to rotate his squad to stay in the hunt for both the continental and league title.

His experience should put Tinkler at ease in the first leg away to Mazembe on November 17.

Sipho Mbule

Age: 19

Favourite position: Attacking central midfielder

FOR all the talk this season about it being the year of the kids, perhaps only Amakhosi youngster Wiseman Meyiwa has been thrown in at the deep end so far, while his teenage counterparts have enjoyed a good number of cameo appearances.

One such player is Mbule, who is convincing enough when on the ball, but still so raw and inexperienced.

The Under-20 junior international was promoted the first XI at the start of the current campaign, with Tinkler hoping he learns from Letsholonyane and the other veterans at the club, especially in midfielder.

Mbule appears to be preferred ahead of Alexander, who has fallen down the pecking order in that department because of an emerging abundance of talent and being injury prone.

Mbule has only played a combined total of 130 minutes in the Premier League in the three matches he was featured, which hardly makes him ready to take on Mazembe. But, maybe, if you are good enough you are old enough.

Tinkler sees him as an ideal attacking option for SuperSport in Letsholonyane’s absence for the first leg.

@superjourno