BAFANA Bafana head coach Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba has named a 25-man squad that will take on Cameroon in crucial back-to-back 2017 Gabon Orange Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
South Africa and the Indomitable Lions first meet on Saturday, March 26 at Stade Omnisport de Limbe in Limbe, Cameroon. Kick-off for that clash is at 4.30pm.
The two nations will then take their battle to Durban for the second leg which will be played three days later – Tuesday, March 29 at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban which kicks off at 7pm.
The return leg marks a very important occasion for both countries as it was 24 years ago when the two nations first clashed in a match to mark South Africa’s readmission into the international fold.
Bafana Bafana won the international frendly match 1-0 through a Doctor Khumalo penalty in the 82nd minute at the Kings Park Rugby Stadium in Durban.
In seven matches, South Africa has only lost once to Cameroon with three wins and three draws – the 2-1 loss coming in their second meeting back in 1992 in Cape Town.
Mashaba has a mammoth task to get South Africa’s campaign back on the road after his charges managed just one point from two matches.
“These two matches are almost a make-or-break for us. If we want to resurrect our campaign, these are the matches that we will have to do well in. I have heard people talking about must-win matches – and these are the ones. We have only one point and they have six – and to add salt to the wound, some of our key players are not active in their clubs, have lost form, are out injured or have just returned from injury. But that is no excuse, the show must go on – we have to put up a fight as though our lives depend on these matches. I believe we have selected a strong team that will deliver,” said Mashaba.
Bafana Bafana last played a competitive match in November last year when they defeated Angola in back to back 2018 Russia FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
“Unfortunately because of the non-availability of a FIFA date, we have not been able to prepare as thoroughly as we would have liked but lack of enough time to prepare should not blind from our mission, even though they have an edge over us as most of their players, if not all, ply their trade abroad and have been very active,”added the Bafana Bafana mentor.
“I just hope the players are aware of what is at stake because these are no ordinary matches. Negative results will see us not active on the international scene for a long time, and if that is not motivation enough for boys to do well, then nothing will be. There are 12 points on offer and it’s up to us what we do with them. The reality is that it is still in our hands,” added the Bafana Bafana mentor.
Bafana Bafana assembled for camp on Sunday, 20 March and expected to depart for Limbe on Wednesday, March 23.
South Africa is in Group M of the AFCON qualifiers with Cameroon, Gambia and Mauritania.
The Indomitable Lions lead the group with six points, three ahead of Mauritania. Bafana Bafana and Gambia on one point each.
NB: The winner of the group will progress to the 16-nation AFCON finals, along with two best-placed runners up.
The squad is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng KHUNE (Kaizer Chiefs), Jackson Mabokgwane (Mpumalanga Black Aces), Darren Keet (KV Kortrijk FC)
Defenders: Siyabonga NHLAPO (Bidvest Wits), Asavela MBEKILE (Mamelodi Sundowns), Anele NGCONGCA (Troyes FC), Thabo MATLABA (Orlando Pirates), Cheslyn JAMPIES (Jomo Cosmos), Eric MATHOHO (Kaizer Chiefs), Sifiso HLANTI (BidVest Wits), Rivaldo COETSEE (Ajax Cape Town), Thulani HLATSWAYO (Bidvest Wits)
Midfielders: Andile JALI (KV Oostende), Kamogelo MOKOTJO (FC Twente), Thulani SERERO (Ajax Amsterdam), Themba ZWANE (Mamelodi Sundowns), William TWALA (Kaizer Chiefs), Jabulani SHONGWE (Bidvest Wits), Mpho MAKOLA (Orlando Pirates), Mandla MASANGO (Randers FC), Hlompho KEKANA (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Strikers: Thamsanqa GABUZA (Orlando Pirates), Prince NXUMALO (Ajax Cape Town), Tokelo RANTIE (AFC Bournemouth) and Dino NDLOVU (Anorthosis Famagusta FC)