As Steven Pienaar misses another Bafana game this evening through injury, a worrying thought flickers through my mind – just how long can the country’s captain continue his international career?
This might seem like high drama – after all, at 29, Pienaar ought to be close to the peak of his powers. But these injuries, of late, are just coming a little too often for comfort.
The seriousness of Pienaar’s latest groin injury emerged on Tuesday, as Spurs revealed he would be out for up to six weeks after surgery.
That Pienaar’s groin flared up again is worrying, but not entirely surprising.
He missed Bafana’s Nations Cup qualifier against Sierra Leone last October with a groin injury, and while he came to play in the following qualifier against Egypt in Johannesburg in March, team doctor Ephraim Nematswerani warned that Pienaar had problems in the same area.
Pienaar then came out for Bafana’s clash with Egypt in Cairo in June, with Nematswerani again warning for the need to manage the midfielder’s groin injury. Pienaar even spoke of putting off an operation to play for Bafana. In the end, a knock on his knee in a training ground tackle with Happy Jele saw Pienaar ruled out of the clash with the Pharaohs.
Pienaar also missed much of the last part of the domestic season at Tottenham, but seemed to be working his way back to full fitness in the pre-season, playing one half against Orlando Pirates in the Vodacom Challenge final. This latest blow, however, lays down another severe setback in his career.
As Pienaar works his way back to fitness again, he will almost certainly miss the 2012 Nations Cup qualifier against Niger at the start of September, and has to be a doubt for the final qualifier at home to Sierra Leone the following month.
It seems to me that ‘Schillo’ may just have to consider shortening his international career, in the manner of a Paul Scholes, for example, just to ensure he can carry on playing at club level well into his thirties.
Pitso Mosimane, too, may have to consider a permanent alternative as captain, if Pienaar’s injury woes show no sign of dissipating. In a more distant future, I simply cannot see ‘Schillo’ playing for Bafana at the 2014 World Cup (if they qualify), though I sincerely hope I am proved wrong.
At least Bafana have a man, in Thulani Serero, who could, potentially take on the mantle of Bafana’s creative inspiration by the time of 2014, though he could struggle to match the Spurs midfielder for workrate.