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Ntseki goes for experience over form

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For Molefi Ntseki failure to qualify for Afcon could very well spell the end of his tenure.

Molefi Ntseki (head coach) of South Africa chats to his players during the Afcon qualifier between South Africa and Sao Tome and Pr’ncipe at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on 13 November 2020 in Durban. Picture: Steve Haag Sports, Backpagepix

MOLEFI Ntseki, who is aware that qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations next year is non-negotiable, made a smart move yesterday by selecting his squad for this month’s back-to-back qualifiers based on experience, rather than form and off-the-field behaviour at club level.

The return of goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune to the South African national team might have come as a shock to some, considering that his blunders have cost Kaizer Chiefs this season.

Recently, though, Khune made headlines for the wrong reasons, caught on camera breaching Covid-19 protocols after going to a crowded place. Khune was the second Bafana Bafana international to transgress after Rangers’ Bongani Zungu.

Zungu, for his part, hasn’t been as effective as expected at Rangers since joining the Scottish giants from Ligue 1 side Amiens on loan at the start of the season.

Ntseki, though, didn’t want to get caught up in internal battles at club level, saying they are exercising independence from clubs and national teams by letting the two organisations deal with the matters that affect them. And that’s the right way to go, if you ask me!

Yes, the duo made noises for the wrong reasons at club level. But at Bafana, they’ve given their best. And that’s something that Ntseki will be hoping they will provide considering that failure to qualify for Afcon could very well spell the end of his tenure.

Khune is the second-highest capped Bafana player. The 33-year-old bossed the No 1 jersey for both club and country for more than a decade, until injuries recently kept him in the treatment room – rather than on the pitch – where his form started to decline.

Khune being alongside the current Bafana No 1 Ronwen Williams and debutant Veli Mothwa could come in handy. Zungu, on the other hand, was Bafana’s best player at the last edition of Afcon, scoring the winner against Namibia in the group stage.

SA’s darling Percy Tau hasn’t had the best start at Brighton & Hove Albion. But there is no doubt that he’ll still be earmarked to lead the attacking line when Bafana host Ghana and then visit Sudan on March 22 and 30 respectively.

Of course, the inclusion of some players – such as S’fiso Hlanti, Innocent Maela and Andile Jali – was questionable due to limited game time but these are players who have weathered many storms with Bafana. And in the end, Ntseki needs experience to qualify and save his job.

While there were rare call-ups for Sipho Mbule and Ben Motshwari, Craig Martin and Mothwa received their first international call-ups. The duo have been exceptional for Cape Town City and AmaZulu this season.

Bafana Bafana squad

Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams, Veli Mothwa, Itumeleng Khune

Defenders: Thibang Phete, Siyanda Xulu, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Mosa Lebusa, Innocent Maela, Sifiso Hlanti, Thapelo Morena, Craig Martin

Midfielders: Rivaldo Coetzee, Themba Zwane, Thulani Serero, Ben Motshwari, Bongani Zungu, Keagan Dolly, Percy Tau, Sipho Mbule, Andile Jali, Luther Singh, Dean Furman

Strikers: Kermit Erasmus, Bradley Grobler, Ruzaigh Gamildien, Lyle Foster