Bafana have high hopes for Lekoelea

Orlando Pirates' talented midfielder Steve Lekoelea is set to take centre stage when Bafana Bafana take on neighbours Namibia in Saturday's crunch Castle Cosafa Cup quarterfinal showdown at Windhoek's Independence stadium (4pm).

This after the teenager was drafted into the squad as a late replacement for injured Ajax Cape Town star Brendan Augustine. National coach Trott Moloto was waxing lyrical about the youngster on Thursday as he started to wind up Bafana's training programme for what promises to be a no-holds-barred 90 minutes of cut-throat knockout soccer.

"Lekoelea was always in the back of my mind when I was selecting the side. However, I planned to give Augustine a chance after a year out of international action. But sometimes things work out in the long run as Lekoelea fits perfectly into Augustine's place on the right side of midfield.

"His current club form suggests that he is ready to resume his international career and he has already been pencilled in," said Moloto.

The crafty Bucs winger, who has only played for his country on two previous occasions, as a subsitute against Egypt and Mauritius, is looking forward to this new challenge."I was delighted to be called up this week and now I just want to do my best for my country."

Moloto said he had done his homework on the "Brave Warriors" and had identified two key players who could be a threat.

"We're not about to start worrying about Namibian players, but yes, we have been viewing videos and two players caught my attention.

"It would be silly of me to reveal their names. Let's just say that they will be looked after."

The Bafana coach added: "I'm expecting a physical encounter. But we have learnt from our past visit there last January where they defeated us 3-2.

"That won't happen again. I'm quietly confident, but at the same time I will be cautious as to how to approach this match. I have a plan worked out to combat Namibia."

One of the key performers will be World Cup striker Shaun Bartlett, who, with 34 caps and 12 goals, will be asked to soak up pressure from the hard tackling Namibian defence where Kaizer Chiefs' utility player Robert Nauseb, Stanley Goagoseb, Silvanus Ndjambari and Bimbo Tjihero will play prominent roles in trying to keep the South African strikers in check.

New Bafana captain Thabo Mngomeni looked ice cool at training this week and his calm influence and fearless tackling in midfield will be crucial.

He can expect plenty of support from Godfrey Sapula, who recently signed for Turkish outfit Ankaragucu form PSL club Jomo Cosmos.

It is at the back that Bafana look most vulnerable. There will be no Lucas Radebe, Mark Fish or Pierre Issa.

In their places come the highly promising Papi Khomane, Themba Mnguni and Fabian McCarthy. What the new trio lack in experience they more than make up in effort and enthusiasm.

Khomane in particular is destined for bigger things. The two defenders likely to sit out if Moloto utilises his usual 3-5-2 formation could be Matthew Booth and Clyde Mahlangu.

Namibian coach Peter Uberjahn is also quietly confident that his side can climb again to the heights of last January when they scored an upset 3-2 extra-time win over Bafana.

"I've been studying South Africa's style of play and have a good idea what to expect. We'll be ready for them. I reckon we can spring another surprise on them," said Uberjahn.

Namibia also suffered a setback when star striker Eliphas Shivute was ruled out after his Chinese club Shenzen refused to release him for the fixture.


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