On-form frontrunners give Bafana Bafana reason for optimism against Mali
CAPE TOWN – The goal-scoring prowess of Percy Tau, Bradley Grobler and Kermit Erasmus is a big plus point for Bafana Bafana as they get set for Sunday's Nelson Mandela Challenge encounter with Mali in Port Elizabeth.
The match (3pm kick-off) is a first in charge for new head coach Molefi Ntseki and is the only chance he'll get to run the rule over his players ahead of the upcoming 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Ghana on November 11.
The lack of a reliable goal-scorer has probably been Bafana Bafana's Achilles Heel over the past 15 to 20 years, and since finishing third at the 2000 AFCON, the national team has achieved very little.
Currently, though there is some real quality in the Bafana squad - a good mix of local and overseas-based players, as well as a nice blend of youth and experience.
And crucially, there are goal-scoring options in abundance, with midfielders such as Themba Zwane, Thembinkosi Lorch, Keagan Dolly, and Thulani Serero as well as wing-back Thapelo Morena all capable of creating goals or finding the net themselves.
Mothobi Mvala, the Highlands Park man who replaced the injured Bongani Zungu is another player who knows the way to goal very well.
Further forward, three of the four strikers named in the squad are all in excellent form, the exception being Lebo Mothiba, who has yet to hit the net in eight appearances for Strasbourg in the French top-flight this season.
Mothiba did, however, have an excellent campaign last season in France and at only 23-years-old, is still in his development phase.
His ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play will always be an asset although it will surely be Grobler who will get the nod to start on Sunday.
The 31-year-old has had his injury setbacks but is probably enjoying the best run of form in his career at present - not only in terms of the seven goals in 10 league and cup matches this season but also with the intelligent link-up play and neat touches he's been exhibiting in and around the box.
Tau meanwhile has already established himself as Bafana's one truly world-class player, with his credentials further enhanced by an outstanding recent performance for his Belgian side Club Brugge in a 2-2 draw against Real Madrid in the Champions League.
The former Mamelodi Sundowns man does, however, have a slight injury concern hanging over him, after picking up a knock to his ankle in a league match last weekend.
But in Erasmus, Ntseki has a like-for-like replacement for Tau - a speedy, skilful forward who can stretch opposition defences, and who is becoming increasingly clinical in front of goal.
The 29-year-old Cape Town City marksmen has never really fully realised his huge potential and is currently at his ninth club.
But under the guidance of Benni McCarthy, he is beginning to come into his own and has scored five times in eight league outings this term, having also ended last season in good form. He'll also be relishing the opportunity to play for the national team in his home town.
There can be little doubt therefore that Ntseki has an exciting squad at his disposal, and if football supporters in this country can get behind Bafana Bafana - even when there are inevitable setbacks - there is a good reason to believe that the current crop of players can make the nation proud once more.
Bafana Bafana squad:
Goalkeepers: Darren Keet (Leuven, Belgium), Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United), Ricardo Goss (Bidvest Wits).
Defenders: Eric Mathoho (Kaizer Chiefs), Buhle Mkhwanazi, Thulani Hlatshwayo (Bidvest Wits), Thapelo Morena (Mamelodi Sundowns), Mosa Lebusa (Mamelodi Sundowns), Tshepo Rikhotso (Bloemfontein Celtic), Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates).
Midfielders: Kamohelo Mokotjo (Brentford, England), Thato Mokeke (CT City), Dean Furman (SuperSport United), Lebogang Phiri (Guingamp, France), Mothobi Mvala (Highlands Park), Themba Zwane (Mamelodi Sundowns), Thembinkosi Lorch (Orlando Pirates), Thulani Serero (Al Jazira, Abu Dhabi), Keagan Dolly (Montpellier, France).
Strikers: Lebo Mothiba (Strasbourg, France), Bradley Grobler (SuperSport United), Kermit Erasmus (CT City), Percy Tau (Club Brugge, Belgium).
African News Agency (ANA)