POLOKWANE - Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter all but ruled out captain Thulani Hlatshwayo from featuring in Friday night’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Senegal at the Peter Mokaba Stadium.
“It would be a big gamble if he plays,” the national team mentor said on Thursday.
“Tyson (Hlatshwayo) looks like he is going to struggle for this one and we are not going to take a chance. I think we need to make sure we won’t have a player that is going to come off after five minutes. At this point we are doubtful that he will take part.”
The defender has been struggling with a toe injury sustained while playing for his club Bidvest Wits in the Telkom Knockout quarterfinal fixture against Baroka FC, which they won 1-0 to progress to the semifinals.
Hlatshwayo also missed Bafana’s World Cup qualifier against Burkina Faso at the FNB Stadium last month because of a knee injury, and Clayton Daniels had to step in to fill his shoes at centreback.
Baxter, however, said he was still holding thumbs that goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, whose facial injury has been a massive concern ahead of Friday night’s must-win clash.
“With Itu we are more hopeful,” the coach said. “We put him through shooting and training drills and he felt quite good. He wore a mask. We are adjusting it slightly to make it fit him better. If we are not sure Itu is comfortable enough to give a performance, we won’t risk him.”
Bafana must beat Senegal here and in Dakar on Tuesday to qualify for next year’s World Cup.