Thulani Hlatshwayo of South Africa celebrates goal with teammates during the 2019 African Cup of Nations match between South Africa and Seychelles at the FNB Stadium, Johannesburg on 13 October 2018 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Monday Jun 10, 2019. 13:00
South Africa coach Stuart Baxter says he and his technical team have tried to name as balanced a squad as possible ahead of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
The Bafana Bafana mentor this past weekend revealed the final 23-man roster for the tournament in Egypt, dropping the trio of Kermit Erasmus‚ Ben Motshwari and Fortune Makaringe from a 26-man preliminary list. The team will depart this evening for a pre-tournament camp in Dubai.
The coach said the selection was made more difficult by the injury-enforced withdrawal of Keagan Dolly and Rivaldo Coetzee opting out due to his mother suffering from a critical illness.
Baxter added that a spirit of togetherness that has begun to bond the team and can be a major strength in the AFCON.
"We've tried to put together a balanced squad that gives us options tactically. I think the strength of the squad is the togetherness of the squad‚" Baxter said.
"'It's been very difficult to achieve that balance. We lost a centreback‚ and we've only probably in the last few days realised that we were not going to get him into the squad.
"And then you have the question‚ do you replace a centreback‚ or do you keep a centreback from within the squad?
"We have Sifiso Hlanti who can play centreback‚ we have 'Rama' [Ramahlwe Mphahlele] who can play centreback. Both of whom had small injuries [on Saturday].
"Now most of the centrebacks [outside the Bafana squad] have not been doing anything for the last few weeks.
"So do you now take one from the Cosafa Cup? We decided that we would solve this in-house.
"To achieve that balance has been very difficult. When we thought we were going to lose one of our players to a cultural issue‚ we made that decision‚ 'No‚ we can cover it from within the squad'.
"I think the strength of the squad is going to be the harmony of the squad. It's going to be the 'We' feeling. And it's going to be the feeling that the players are going to be very goal orientated.
"And probably that the players feel a little bit underdogs and we can create a bit of a siege mentality.”
SA 23-man AFCON squad
Goalkeepers: Darren Keet (Bidvest Wits)‚ Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United)‚ Bruce Bvuma (Kaizer Chiefs).
Defenders: Daniel Cardoso (Chiefs)‚ Ramahlwe Mphahlele (Chiefs)‚ Thulani Hlatshwayo (Wits)‚ Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates)‚ Sifiso Hlanti (Wits)‚ Buhle Mkhwanazi (Wits)‚ Thamsanqa Mkhize (Cape Town City).
Midfielders: Bongani Zungu (Amiens SC‚ France)‚ Hlompho Kekana (Sundowns)‚ Dean Furman (Supersport United)‚ Kamohelo Mokotjo (Brentford‚ England)‚ Tiyani Mabunda (Sundowns)‚ Thulani Serero (Vitesse‚ Netherlands)‚ Thembinkosi Lorch (Pirates)‚ Themba Zwane (Sundowns).
Strikers: Lebogang Mothiba (Strasbourg‚ France)‚ Percy Tau (Union Saint-Gilloise‚ Belgium)‚ Lars Veldwijk (Sparta Rotterdam‚ Netherlands)‚ Lebohang Maboe (Sundowns)‚ Sibusiso Vilakazi (Sundowns).