Breaking down Baxter's Bafana squad
Posted: 25 September 2017 Time: 16:00
Stuart Baxter recently named his 25-man Bafana Bafana squad to face Burkina Faso, as KickOff.com analyses the choices made by the Brit ahead of next month’s crunch clash.
South Africa face Burkina Faso in an all-or-nothing clash at FNB Stadium on Saturday, 7 October, with the odds stacked heavily against the hosts in their bid for World Cup 2018 qualification. Yet a solid showing, and more importantly a win, will go a long way in restoring some of the nation’s pride following back-to-back Group D losses to Cape Verde.
Baxter has made seven changes to the squad that succumbed to those two 2-1 defeats earlier this month.
Ronwen Williams, who seems cursed every time he dons a Bafana Bafana jersey, makes way for in-form and undisputed number one Itumeleng Khune – the most caped player in the squad – who was named man of the match as Kaizer Chiefs beat Maritzburg United last week.
Khune’s presence, experience and ability will no doubt provide solidity and calmness at the back for Baxter and his charges.
In the defensive apartment, the injured Ramahlwe Mphahlele is omitted, as well as Orlando Pirates utility man Abbubaker Mobara, who Baxter feels has not been played in his correct position at The Bucs. In their place, two newcomers get a chance, as ever-improving Bidvest Wits youngster Reeve Frosler and unsung Cape Town City hero Thamsanqa Mkhize are drafted in.
In midfield, the suspended Dean Furman is left out, as well as Wits’ Daylon Claasen, who Baxter says was better suited to the astro pitch of Cape Verde, and who does not offer the required width the Bafana coach desires.
Two strikers have also been omitted from the last squad as Kermit Erasmus and Tokelo Rantie are excluded. Erasmus is yet to make an appearance for French club Stade Rennes this season, while Rantie recently received a red card for Turkish club Genclerbirligi, with Baxter worried that his inactivity would be problematic.
Instead, the former SuperSport United coach has roped in a number of attacking players he hopes will do the job upfront. Mamelodi Sundowns’ Sibusiso Vilakazi earns a recall, as does Qarabag’s Dino Ndlovu, who last featured for Bafana in their 5-0 humbling by Brazil in March 2014.
Phakamani Mahlambi, fresh off his move to Egyptian giants Al Ahly, gets the nod, while there’s a maiden call-up for France-based 21-year-old Lebo Mothiba, who has netted two goals in seven league games for Ligue II side Valenciennes.
Nine of the 25 squad members ply their trade abroad, while of the 16 locally-based players, Mamelodi Sundowns have the biggest representation with five players, followed by SuperSport United with four. Both Pretoria sides are playing three games in the space of a week, and one hopes fatigue will not be a factor when those nine players report for Bafana duty.
The call-ups for young Frosler and Mothiba has reduced the average age of this Bafana Bafana squad to 27. The 19-year-old Wits full-back is the youngest, veterans Wayne Sandilands and Morgan Gould are the elder statesmen at 34, with a seemingly good blend of youth and experience.
Players under 25: Frosler (19), Mahlambi (20), Mothiba (21), Tau (23), Dolly (24), Zungu (24).
Players over 30: Khune (30), Langerman (31), Kekana (32), Daniels (33), Sandilands (34), Gould (34).
The situation may seem dire with back-to-back fixtures against Senegal still on the cards, yet it seems Baxter has given a lot of thought, noted the in-form players and acknowledged the need to attack in picking the 25 to carry the hopes of the nation next month.
We hope they make a good account of themselves, but more importantly, leave FNB Stadium with maximum points.