Khartoum – Ramahlwe Mphahlele believes Bafana Bafana will have to play “smart” to get maximum points in their opening Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sudan tomorrow.
The Mamelodi Sundowns defender may be new to the senior national squad but he knows what it takes to qualify for a major tournament on the continent, Mphahlele having captained the national under-20s to African Youth Championships and World Cup qualification during his junior days.
“It’s very important that we get off to a good start in the qualifiers. But we should not be naïve and overlap and leave spaces open in defence. You have to play smart when you are away from home. We have to try and get a win and if you get a draw, I think it’s good and then we will make sure that we do well when we come back home. In the junior national teams it’s far. For instance when we play against Nigeria (next week) we will be coming up against guys who play for Chelsea, so we have to stand our ground.”
Mphahlele has called on South Africans to give the team a chance to prove themselves before making judgements on the selections made by coach Shakes Mashaba who has brought in fresh faces into the team
“You have to test it before you make judgements. It’s very important for us to get that win against Sudan because it will give us that take-off that we need. Then we can look forward and say we can actually qualify for the Cup of Nations. We’ll do our best to try and win the game. We do not want to start off on a bad note.”
Bafana arrived in Khartoum yesterday, without Belgium based Ayanda Patosi and goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, who has been replaced by Darren Keet.
Mashaba explained the absence of Patosi, who was apparently in tears after missing his flight from Belgium.
“He missed the flight from Belgium. We booked him into another flight and he missed that one as well. But let’s not harass him. Let’s wait for him to hear what happened. He called me and he was crying. He told me that he is going to book a flight ticket with his own money so that he can meet up with us in Cape Town next week, but I told him to hold on. We can’t allow a player to buy his own plane ticket,” Mashaba said yesterday.
Khune, meanwhile, has been playing with an injury since February, according to Bafana team doctor Thulani Ngwenya. He last played for Bafana during CHAN against Mali, but has been playing consistently for his club Kaizer Chiefs. Ngwenya said Khune could be out for a minimum of six weeks.
“He’s been playing at his club and it would often swell up and they would put ice and transact. Khune trained with the (Bafana) team on Monday but he could not finish the training session because he swelled up.
“It’s best that Khune rests and we advise that they (Chiefs) manage him better.”
Mashaba revealed George Lebese and Jabulani Shongwe do not have passports. - The Star