JOHANNESBURG - Bafana Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter has announced a 23-man squad to face Botswana in the 2018 African Nations Championship (Chan) qualifiers.
South Africa and their neighbours will meet in the first leg on Saturday, July 15 at the Francistown Stadium in Botswana, with a 3.30pm kickoff. The second leg will be staged at the Moruleng Stadium in Rustenburg the following weekend, Saturday, July 22 at 3pm.
The Bafana mentor has retained some of the players who did duty for in the Cosafa Cup – captain Lehlogonolo Masalesa, Tercious Malepe, Jamie Webber, Mario Booysen, Cole Alexander, Boalefa Pule, Riyaad Norodien, Sandile Mthethwa and Mothobi Mvala.
“But I must say upfront that we have a slight challenge with Masalesa – because he was initially contracted to an overseas club, he was not considered for selection,” said Baxter.
“He has since become a free agent, but now he is not attached to any team, which leaves a grey area as to whether he can play for us or not. We have consulted with the authorities and we should have an answer in no time.
“He spent two weeks with us for the Cosafa Cup and he can add value to the Chan team, so if he is eligible to play, we will gladly keep him in the squad but if not, we will have to release him.
“The rules are silent on that matter, so we will have to wait and see, but we don’t want a situation where we take him with us, play him and then later on we forfeit the game because we used an illegible player or even get a fine.”
Due to the good co-operation with clubs, Baxter has managed to call up a decent squad made up of the likes of Ryan Moon from Kaizer Chiefs, Siyabonga Nhlapho from Wits, Gift Motupa from Baroka FC, Siphiwe Mnguni of Platinum Stars and Sphelele Ntshangase of Black Leopards.
“First of all, we would once again like to thank the clubs for agreeing to give us players when we called on them. We are well aware that this qualifier comes at a time when most players are on holiday, or clubs have just returned for their pre-season training, and for that we are grateful,” added Baxter.
Several players that have been added to the Cosafa Cup squad are uncapped – like Moon, Mnguni, Steven Hoffman, Khulekani Kubheka, Malebogo Modise, Junaid Sait, Sipho Mbule, Dumisani Zuma, Ricardo Lourenco and Teboho Mokoena.
Four players in the squad ply their trade in the National First Division (NFD) – Mvala (Highlands Park), Ntshangase (Black Leopards), Webber and Sait (both Stellenbosch FC).
Six of the selected players were at the 2017 Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Korea – Kubheka, Malepe, Modise, Mthethwa, Mbule and Mokoena, while three were at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games – Malepe, Mvala and Motupa.
The winners between South Africa and Botswana will face the victors of the clash between Swaziland and Zambia in the third round, scheduled for the 11th and 18th of August.
The last nation standing will qualify for the Chan, which will take place in Kenya from 11 January to 2 February 2018. A total of 16 teams will qualify to play in the final tournament, including Kenya, who qualified automatically as hosts.
Goalkeepers: Boalefa Pule, Steven Hoffman, Khulekani Kubheka
Defenders: Siyabonga Nhlapo, Malebogo Modise, Siphiwe Mnguni, Junaid Sait, Sandile Mthethwa, Mothobi Mvala, Mario Booysen, Tercious Malepe
Midfielders: Cole Alexander, Lehlogonolo Masalesa, Riyaad Norodien, Jamie Webber, Sphelele Ntshangase, Dumisani Zuma, Ricardo Lourenco, Teboho Mokoena, Sipho Mbule.
Strikers: Bongani Ntuli, Ryan Moon, Gift Motupa.