CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 19: South Africa during the 2014 African Nations Championship match between South Africa and Nigeria at Cape Town Stadium on January 19, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images)

Former Bafana Bafana captain Lucas Radebe feels national team coach Gordon Igesund should have gambled and used more youngsters in the ongoing African Nations Championship (Chan).

In a tournament that should be used to give up-and-coming youngsters a chance to prove themselves, Igesund, to no surprise, relied heavily on his tried and tested players who have failed the nation on countless occasions.

And, yet again, they disappointed, getting knocked out in the group stage following an embarrassing 3-1 defeat to Nigeria at Cape Town Stadium on Sunday.

“To be very honest, I have a different view because I think the tournament is great for development. This is when we should have the future of the country playing, preparing ourselves for 2018 and onwards.

“We know most of the boys who are in the (current) squad, guys like (Siphiwe) Tshabalala and (Bernard) Parker. They are good, but I don’t think these players have played to the best of their abilities yet,” Radebe said last week before the hammering by the Super Eagles.

In 2011, South Africa took a squad filled with unknown players from lower divisions to Chan in Sudan but they gave a good account of themselves with hardly any support, reaching the quarter-finals where they were knocked out by Algeria.

The team was known as the South African development side – what it in fact should still be called – and Free State Stars’ Katlego Mashego was part of the squad.

The winger was one of the team’s best players in the competition as South Africa finished top of Group B ahead of Niger, Zimbabwe and Ghana with “unknown” players such as Sandile Luping and Thato Mogakabe.

At the time, Mashego was still a Baroka FC player in the third tier, but a year later was called up to the senior national team by Igesund after signing for Stars.

Another player who was in that squad coached by Simon Ngomane three years ago is Tiyani Mabunda. He was at Black Leopards and this season signed with big guns Mamelodi Sundowns.

At the Cosafa Cup in Zambia last year, Bafana were without many of their so-called best players, but they still managed to reach the final where they lost to the hosts.

Rudzaigh Gamildien, Tshepo Gumede and Buhle Mkhwanazi all proved their worth at the competition.

Radebe, however, says he does not blame Igesund for doing everything to try to win the competition.

After all, Igesund had failed to win the last Africa Cup of Nations on home soil and to qualify for this year’s World Cup in Brazil, so he may have been desperate to win this competition, thinking some of his tried-and-tested would help him achieve that.

But losing with a group of youngsters while you build for the future is better than bowing out of the competition with players who are often referred to as stars but hardly ever deliver.

“You know what, every coach wants to win, you can’t blame him. As a coach, you are judged by your results, so he (Igesund) showed it from the word go that he wants to win it, but it’s a big risk.

“Once he falters, everybody will be hunting for his head, but I feel the youngsters should play. Let the youngsters get experience and prepare them for the World Cup in 2018,” said Radebe.

Igesund has faltered, but he did give Platinum Stars’ Lindokuhle Mbatha and Thato Mokeke of Ajax Cape Town a chance during Chan and they did well, probably the only positive for him.

Next for Bafana is to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco.

Having qualified for four tournaments as hosts in the last five years, Bafana now have the mammoth task of trying to qualify for the continent’s biggest tournament without the luxury of automatic qualification.

The future looks bleak. - The Star