Teboho Mokoena has been an integral figure for Stuart Baxter at Bafana Bafana, but will turn out for the SA Under-23 team. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – David Notoane, the new SA Under-23 team coach, believes that the experience his players gained in the PSL reserve league will be invaluable in their quest to qualify for the 2020 Olympics Games in Tokyo.

The Under-23s will begin their qualifiers against Angola in a clash that will kick off in Luanda on March 22, before the return leg at Wits on March 26.

The victors will meet either Zimbabwe or the winner between eSwatini and Mozambique in the second round.

Should Notoane propel his troops to a 100 percent record, they’ll qualify for an eight-nation tournament that will take place in Egypt in November, where the top three teams will book their spot in the Olympics Games that will take place next summer in Asia.

“We wanted to get the permutations right, by making sure that we don’t have two many players coming from the youth groups and graduating to the Under-23s, but not playing regularly.

“But luckily, we can thank the PSL for the reserve league,” Notoane said.

“If you look at previous generations, you find that players were idle, especially in the junior teams. But with the reserve league, we are happy the players have been playing regularly.”

What will also drive Notoane to succeed in his new task is that senior national team coach Stuart Baxter has allowed him to select the mesmeric Teboho Mokoena.

SuperSport United midfielder Mokoena has been an integral figure for Baxter as he scored in their 6-0 win over the Seychelles last year at home.

His club form picked up at the right time, and he has scored some crucial goals in their league campaign.

“There’s been behind-the-scenes talks and engagement. And that (the allowance of Mokoena to be part of the Under-23s rather than the senior team) addresses the issue of collaboration between the Under-23s and senior team,” Notoane said.

“After appealing to him, coach Baxter gave me the green light to select Mokoena in terms of our needs.”

Notoane, who is also Mamelodi Sundowns’ reserve team coach, is not a stranger to the national team set-up as he propelled Amajita to an historic Commonwealth Cup title in Russia in 2015, before deputising for Thabo Senong during the Caf Under-20 Africa Youth Champions in Senegal the same year.

In his second stint with the association, he boasts an impressive CV that has also seen him win the reserve league three seasons ago, while there are a number of players that he’s promoted to the first team.

“I think as a coach, you always have your objectives of where you want to take your career,” Notoane acknowledged.

“I’ve worked in the PSL and NFD, and I’ve been fired before. But after being fired, I’ve come back – from down under, I was able to swim up. I am trying to say if we don’t qualify, it’s not all causes lost.

“The true measure of my character is to lead Bafana one day, but that will happen through these tests.”

Notoane will select his 23-man squad after their first training session.

@Mihlalibaleka


The Star

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