‘Exceptionally smart’ Relebohile Mofokeng can handle Bafana pressure, says Pirates coach

RELEBOHILE Mofokeng has been a revelation for Orlando Pirates, and has been rewarded with a Bafana call-up. Photo: BackpagePix

RELEBOHILE Mofokeng has been a revelation for Orlando Pirates, and has been rewarded with a Bafana call-up. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 1, 2024


ORLANDO Pirates coach Jose Riveiro has endorsed the call-up of his duo, Relebohile Mofokeng and Patrick Maswanganyi, to the Bafana Bafana squad.

South Africa will face Nigeria at Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo in a Fifa World Cup qualifier on June 7, before hosting Zimbabwe at Free State Stadium four days later.

Having had an average start in Group C, beating Benin before losing to Rwanda, Bafana need to get positive results from both matches.

Coach Hugo Broos also knows that very well, so much so that he called up a strong final squad which included Pirates pair Maswanganyi and Mofokeng.

The pair have been in red-hot form this season, steering Pirates to the MTN8 crown, a DStv Premiership second-place finish, and today’s Nedbank Cup final.

In addition, the two were in their first full seasons at the Buccaneers, Maswanganyi having made his debut at the club, while Mofokeng was sparingly used last campaign.

Speaking ahead of Pirates’ clash with Mamelodi Sundowns in the Nedbank Cup final in Mbombela today (3pm kick-off), Riveiro reflected on the duo’s call-up.

“The national team selection is largely based on the criteria of the Bafana coach, so that might be a question for Mr Broos,” replied Riveiro on whether the call-up justified the two players’ performances this season

“I obviously think Maswanganyi and Mofokeng, they are the new kids on the block. They made an impact, an important one during this campaign.

“We are talking about two players that whichever team you support, you like to see them playing football, let’s be honest.

“I don’t think that anybody will be surprised or not happy with their presence in the national team. Hopefully they’ll have an opportunity to be themselves there, and make all of us proud.”

With Maswanganyi having been part of the squad that travelled to Algeria for the Fifa Series pilot project in March, all eyes will be on Mofokeng next month.

The 19-year-old has indeed been a revelation for Pirates, showing no signs of inexperience – something that has impressed his coach as well.

“Rele is exceptionally smart. I don’t think there’s going to be an extra anything – extra pressure or extra confidence,” Riveiro said.

“He just wants to play football... That’s what he wants, just play. Anything else is a consequence of his performances.”

A lot of pundits have warned Mofokeng against getting carried away, insisting that there is and will always be room for improvement.

Riveiro knows that too, but he argues that Mofokeng realises what’s expected of him.

“He knows the road (ahead); he knows the way to do it,” Riveiro explained.

“If it’s something coming from his coach or the expectations, I think he’s confident to play football. At the same time, maybe he’s getting the attention of the opponent.

“As much as you get more people to talk about you, the opponent is going to put more attention on you. You must show that you can overcome that obstacle, that challenge.

“The opponents will be planning because of you. That’s where Rele is right now – that process of developing his football, trying to be complete.”

Meanwhile, Broos expressed his delight that the SA Football Association were able to organise a charter flight to Uyo, Nigeria.

“It is very important that we are travelling by charter,” the Belgian mentor said on the Safa website.

“You can spend two days travelling (on a commercial airline). You leave on Wednesday and arrive on Thursday night – it’s terrible.

“We did it two years ago against Ethiopia. We won here against Ethiopia, but we ran after the ball, we didn’t touch the ball and we won it.

“But we could have lost that game because the players were exhausted.

“We could not to repeat that again, and Safa did a very big effort to have that charter. I’m very happy with it. So now we will fly to Lagos, from Lagos to Uyo, done.

“Okay, the flight will not be two or three hours, but it’s only Lagos, and we are finished. This is what I wanted and again, I’m very happy that we could achieve it.”

Bafana Bafana squad

Goalkeepers: Ronwen Williams, Ricardo Goss, Veli Mothwa

Defenders: Nyiko Mobbie, Thapelo Morena, Nkosinathi Sibisi, Aubrey Modiba, Mothobi Mvala, Khuliso Mudau, Siyabonga Ngezana, Grant Kekana

Midfielders: Teboho Mokoena, Jayden Adams, Bathusi Aubaas, Sphephelo Sithole

Forwards: Themba Zwane, Oswin Appollis, Patrick Maswanganyi, Iqraam Rayners, Elias Mokwana, Lyle Foster, Percy Tau, Relebohile Mofokeng