Cape Town – Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund has made no bones about the fact that they want to lift the African Nations Championship trophy on February 1. Here, we take a look at five starlets who can help South Africa overcome the rest of Africa over the next three weeks.
Buhle Mkhwanazi (University of Pretoria, defender)
The Tuks defender showed a lot of maturity at the heart of the Bafana defence during the Cosafa Cup in Zambia in his first outing in international football. Mkhwanazi is a centre back with a little bit of smarts, and has the necessary anticipation to play either a man-marking role or as a sweeper.
Despite his size, Mkhwanazi is also very good in the air and isn’t scared to challenge opposition strikers at corners or free kicks. The former Mamelodi Sundowns development player will celebrate his 24th birthday on the day of the Chan final, and hopefully he will be blowing out the candles with the tournament trophy next to the cake.
Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns, midfielder)
In a league where most teams use big foreign players to anchor the midfield, Kekena has shown that he has the ability to be one of the PSL’s premier enforcers. Kekana will bring much-needed physicality to the Bafana midfield that lacks a bit of size.
The Sundowns man is excellent in breaking up attacks with his tough-tackling, while he isn’t shy to put his body on the line in the 50-50 challenges. But Kekana, who was arguably Bafana’s best player at the Cosafa Cup last year, is no donkey on the ball.
His distribution is solid, and he will be an important link for Igesund in the transitions. Kekana also has a canon of a right foot, and he will be dangerous from dead-ball situations and around the edge of the opposition penalty area.
Sibusiso Vilakazi (Wits, midfielder)
Vilakazi is one of the top attacking talents in South Africa, and could become the type of player who Igesund and a plethora of national coaches before him have been longing for. Unfortunately, though, Vilakazi has taken a while to take his game to the next level.
However, the 24-year-old can put his stamp on this tournament with a few match-winning displays.
Vilakazi’s big strength is to arrive late in the penalty area and get into great goal-scoring positions.
His finishing, though, lets him down sometimes, as was the case when he made his Bafana debut against Morocco last year.
He can contribute goals from midfield, which is something the national team has been lacking over the past decade. Vilakazi also has an eye for that killer pass in and around the penalty area, and can quickly spot runs by strikers in behind the opposition defence.
Ryan Chapman (Wits, striker/winger)
The former Capetonian brings much-needed versatility to Bafana. Chapman can either play upfront, on the wing and even in an attacking midfield role.
He certainly has as eye for goal, having started off the previous season with a few outrageous strikes, before injury kept him on the sidelines for six months.
The former Santos striker also brings lots of pace and energy to the party, and will run his socks off for the cause.
He will probably not start in most of the matches, but his impact off the bench could be crucial if Bafana are to go far in this tournament.
Edward Manqele (Moroka Swallows)
Which Edward Manqele is going to pitch up for Chan?
Igesund will certainly hope it’s the Manqele who has scored eight times in the league so far this season, and not the one who struggled to get going at Sundowns last season.
The former Free State Stars man, when he is sharp, is a striker who can put away those half chances that can make a massive difference in tournament football.
He is also the perfect foil for fellow strikers Bernard Parker and Katlego Mashego, who like to collect the ball in deeper areas.
Manqele is a predator who likes to plays off the last defender’s shoulder.
He can also hold the ball up beautifully for the likes of Parker and the attacking midfielders to play off him, which will be an important part of Bafana’s plans.
Saturday, January 11: Bafana Bafana v Mozambique (6pm)
Wednesday, January 15: Bafana Bafana v Mali (5pm)
Sunday, January 19: Bafana Bafana v Nigeria (7pm)
* All games to be played at the Cape Town Stadium