Durban – There’s nothing like a dose of healthy competition to bring out the best in players, and it comes at the ideal time for Bafana Bafana as they prepare for the final World Cup 2014 group qualifier against Botswana at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday.
Several of the foreign-based players joined the squad for their first training outing on Tuesday, among them former captain Bongani Khumalo of English side Doncaster Rovers and the Netherlands-based pair of Thulani Serero and Kamohelo Mokotjo.
While the national team is familiar territory for Khumalo and fellow England-based professional Kagisho Dikgacoi, it’s a step up for midfielder Mokotjo who previously turned out for the junior national teams.
Dikgacoi, Mokotjo and Dean Furman are candidates for the midfield anchor role which the latter has taken a firm hold of. Veteran Dikgacoi was excited to be involved once more in the national set-up and looked forward to pushing Furman for a spot in midfield next to Kaizer Chiefs man Reneilwe Letsholonyane.
“Ever since Dean came in he’s worked really hard and he’s done well for the team. Where there’s a challenge it’s good, because it helps push the other guys to do better. There’s big competition here and we want to make it as tough as possible for the coach to select the team,” said the former Lamontville Golden Arrows hard man.
Head coach Gordon Igesund needs all his personnel at peak form for this crunch final group qualifier against neighbours Botswana. Victory has the potential to keep alive South Africa’s chance of reaching the final qualifying stage for the World Cup. Bafana Bafana must win and hope that group leaders Ethiopia lose or draw against the Central African Republic (CAR) in Congo Republic. Both matches kick off at 3.30pm on Saturday.
CAR are forced to host the match in Brazzaville because of continued unrest in their country.
While even a win could count for nought, Dikgacoi said he was always pumped up to don the national jersey, and hoped to carry his league form for Crystal Palace into the game against the Zebras. “I’m always motivated for Bafana games, and for this match we just have to motivate all the guys because it’s an important game to win. We have to forget about whatever is happening between CAR and Ethiopia and focus on our game.
“Personally I’m also excited because I want to continue with my club form. It’s exciting and the games have been intense. I want to continue with this form and make the most of this second chance in the Premiership. I’m confident after we won our last game; it gives me a motivational boost for Saturday. Had we lost it would have been different,” said Dikgacoi who is back in the big time after his initial flirtation with the English top flight with Fulham.
A similar rush of adrenaline courses through the veins of Mokotjo. The nephew of former PSL midfielder Pogisho Mokotjo is enjoying life at the top of the Dutch league with his new club PEC Zwolle, and he also hopes to impress Igesund.
“I’m not surprised with our form – played five, won four, drew one – because we play good football and anything can happen. To get into the starting team of Bafana Bafana I have to keep doing well for my club, and when I get a call-up I have to keep showing the coach what I’m capable of doing here at training,” said Mokotjo after the morning work-out at People’s Park next to the match venue, Moses Mabhida Stadium.