SA Under-20 coach Thabo Senong, second right, with his technical staff during a media day. Picture: Samuel Shivambu / BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG – Thabo Senong has made it clear there will be no changes in the technical staff that will travel with the South African national Under-20 (Amajita) squad when they go to South Korea for the Fifa Under-20 World Cup next month.

This comes after the Amajita head coach noted the valuable contribution Helman "Midnight Express" Mkhalele brought to the junior side, after the former Bafana Bafana international and Orlando Pirates star was roped in as a stand-in replacement for coach David Notoane, who had club commitments with his Mamelodi Sundowns’ reserve side in their MultiChoice Diski Challenge campaign.

Senong’s decision to keep Mkhalele as his second assistant was influenced by the team's qualification for his first Fifa World Cup as head coach in Zambia in the Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations tournament (Afcon) early this year, after having failed to do so in his debut appearance in Senegal two years ago.

The Bafana Bafana assistant thought it would be wise not to tinker with his technical staff.

“We are not changing the technical team because continuity is key in my view,” Senong said.

“Both Molefi Ntseki and Helman Mkhalele have been unbelievable (as assistants). They come from different backgrounds in terms of how they do things. They add so much value to this technical team. This helps in widening the pool of coaches.

“We also have the likes of Shaun Bartlett, David Notoane and Ace Khuse, who are just incredible at what they do. But there will be no changes in this technical team.”

Amajita jet off to the Netherlands on Tuesday and are expected to lock horns with sides like Ajax Amsterdam, Feyenoord and Pec Zwolle as part of the first phase of their World Cup preparations.

After that they travel to Asia, where they will play a few friendly matches and make the final touch-ups ahead of their third World Cup appearance.

Senong said he hopes these friendlies will help his team immensely.

Amajita are pitted in Group D and go head-to-head with Uruguay, Italy and Japan in pursuit of a spot in the next round of the World Cup.

“The plan is to spend at least a week (following their trip to the Netherlands) in China before we make our way to Japan where we will play more friendly matches,” Senong said.

“We are hoping to play against Mexico, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia and the US before the tournament starts.

“I believe these friendlies will help us get physically and mentally ready for the task ahead.

“I was fortunate to have been abroad and being a part of international tournaments while I was still a youth coach,” he added.

“When I was with Orlando Pirates (developmental side) I went to England for the Manchester Cup. I’ve been to the Olympics with the National Under-23s as well.

“This will be my fourth international tournament since I started coaching.

“Moving to the next round (in this World Cup competition) would mean we are closing the gap between us and the other countries.

“We’ll work hard to ensure we (survive) our group and reach the last 16.

“But having said that, we don’t want to put too much pressure on the boys.

“We want them to go out there and have fun.”


Saturday Star

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