Bafana assistant coach Thabo Senong during practice on Tuesday. Photo: SAFA Media
Bafana assistant coach Thabo Senong during practice on Tuesday. Photo: SAFA Media
Kaizer Chiefs defender Sibusiso Khumalo is part of the Bafana squad for the Chan qualifier. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu, BackpagePix
Kaizer Chiefs defender Sibusiso Khumalo is part of the Bafana squad for the Chan qualifier. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Bafana Bafana assistant coach Thabo Senong say his side are going through difficult challenges dealing with player departures, but there is still reason to be optimistic.

Following the departure of seven players after the first leg of the third and final round of the 2018 Chan qualifier against Zambia on Saturday – three more players were withdrawn from the Bafana team on Tuesday.

National First Division (NFD) side Jomo Cosmos have recalled two of their players – defenders Thato Lingwati and Mpho Rasilingwane, while Richards Bay have also withdrawn Sandile Mthethwa.

This brings to 10 the number of players who have now left camp after the first leg in East London – Menzi Masuku (Chippa United), Shane Thompson (Mthatha Bucks), Tshepo Mabua, Keegan Pool (both Stellenbosch FC) and Gift Motupa (Baroka FC). 

Asavela Mbekile (Mamelodi Sundowns) has a family bereavement, while Tercious Malepe (Orlando Pirates) was red-carded.

There are now 15 players – including Mamelodi Sundowns defender Malebogo Modise, who arrived in camp on Monday.

“It is unfortunate that the Chan qualifiers come at a bad time in the South African football season, and so such withdrawals are bound to happen.

“We also have to understand where the teams are coming from, and we will forever appreciate the help they have given us where they could. We will keep on knocking at the doors until one of them opens,” said Senong.

“It all boils down to the relationships we are building with all the coaches to ensure that going forward we try and avoid such problems.

“The truth is, if Chan continues to be played at this time, we will always have these problems and that is why it is very important to have these relations with club coaches.

“Only by working together will we get things right. We are going through some challenges, but we will overcome it.”

Malebogo Modise has joined the Bafana camp. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

Four players will be joining Bafana as late replacements – Kgotso Moleko, Sibusiso Khumalo, Siya Ngezana (all Kaizer Chiefs) as well as Siphelele Ndlovu, who is from TS Galaxy in the ABC Motsepe League.

“This tournament is all about giving exposure and that is our mission. Since the start, we have given several a chance to don the national team jersey and some of them are very promising, they are stars of the future.

“We believe that so far we have achieved our objective of giving international experience to some players, and for that we must again thank the clubs for the assistance,” added Senong.

“We believe strongly that we can go to Zambia and compete. We are not saying it, but we all saw what happened in East London… We were almost home and dry, but they came back last minute to equalise – so that gives us confidence that we can go there and hurt them in their backyard. We are positive that we will do well.”

The squad depart for Zambia on Thursday.

The match between South Africa and Zambia will be played on Saturday at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium at 3pm.

African News Agency (ANA)