CAPE TOWN – Stuart Baxter will soon name his Bafana Bafana squad for the crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Nigeria, scheduled for FNB Stadium on 17 November - and Cape Town City captain Thami Mkhize is hopeful of getting the nod.
As it stands, with two games to go, Bafana’s qualification for the continental showpiece is not cut and dried. The top two teams secure spots at the event in Cameroon next year. Nigeria lead the group with nine points, followed by Bafana on eight and Libya with four points. Victory over arch-rivals Nigeria will guarantee qualification for the South Africans.
Because of this, Bafana coach Baxter will have to think deeply and box very cleverly with regards to squad selection. There is no room for error; attention to detail is vital. And one position he needs to particularly ponder is at right-back. Baxter’s regular picks are Ramahlwe Mphahlele (Kaizer Chiefs) and Thapelo Morena (Mamelodi Sundowns).
But there is no doubt that Mkhize is knocking very hard on the right-back door. He was called up as a late replacement for Bafana’s last two qualifiers (against the Seychelles, home and away), but didn’t see any action. No problem with that - Mkhize is the ultimate team man, who will perform whatever role the coach demands of him. But, such has been his form for City this season, it would be a travesty if he should miss out.
In the end, though, it’s Baxter’s decision. But, whatever happens, one thing is certain: Mkhize will continue to give his very best for club and country.
For the two recent qualifiers against the Seychelles, Mkhize was joined in the Bafana squad by two of his City teammates, Thabo Nodada and Gift Links. As the Cape side’s captain, this makes him extremely proud.
“The Bafana Bafana camp was good,” said Mkhize. “And having two of my teammates from Cape Town City in the squad was great. It goes to show that there is progress within our own team, which is good for the club.”
After winning the MTN8 last month, City went off the boil for a few weeks - and they struggled for form and goals. At the weekend, though, things returned to normal as they brushed aside AmaZulu 3-0 at Cape Town Stadium. Winger Surprise Ralani produced a star turn to inspire the victory - and Mkhize was suitably impressed.
“Surprise’s presence on the field is a positive for the team because he helps us in the attacking third; he is a very creative player and he has lots of experience,” Mkhize said.