Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund has announced a strong 23-man squad that will face neighbours Botswana in a crucial Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier that will take place on Saturday (7 September 2013) at the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium.
The match will kick-off at 15h30.
Igesund has named eight overseas-based players and 15 who play in the domestic league.
The goalkeeping department remains the same with captain Itumeleng Khune, Wayne Sandilands and Senzo Meyiwa filling the three positions.
In defence, England-based and former captain Bongani Khumalo, who last played in the 2013 AFCON tournament in February, makes a welcome return so is Russia-based Siyanda Xulu who has recovered from an injury.
Also getting a recall after a long absence are Holland-based Thulani Serero and Kagisho Dikgacoi who plays for Crystal Palace in the English Premiership.
Upfront Kermit Erasmus of Orlando Pirates joins Bernard Parker and Tokelo Rantie.
“This has been a difficult exercise picking the team because there are a lot of players doing very well, more so those based overseas. I had to choose my strongest possible squad for this clash with Botswana because that’s where all my focus is right now. The match against Botswana is a huge game for us,” said Igesund.
“We need to go there and do what we have to do - win this game. Our fate will be decided by the outcome of the match between CAR and Ethiopia. But I can’t focus on something we have no control over, what we have to do is make sure we win our game but I am confident we will beat Botswana with the team I have chosen.”
Belgium-based goalkeeper Darren Keet has been included as an additional player for the Durban match but will only be available for training.
Keet will remain for Bafana Bafana’s second match, an international friendly against Zimbabwe on Tuesday, 10 September at a venue still to be confirmed.
South Africa will be without their overseas contingent for the Zimbabwe game as they will return to their clubs, as well as the Orlando Pirates players who are playing CAF Champions League against AC Leopards of the Congo on Saturday, 14 September. Only Erasmus will be part of the second match as he is not registered for the competition.
“The squad to play Zimbabwe will consist of local-based players, without Pirates players, as we look at next year’s CHAN tournament that we will host in South Africa. I have excused Pirates players as they have to travel to Congo where they have a match three days after our clash with Zimbabwe.
“It was a tough decision again, but I don’t see any logic in including them in my squad when they have to play far away three days later. They are representing the country, and everyone wants to see them do well as it will benefit Bafana Bafana in the long run,” said Igesund.
The match against Botswana will be played simultaneously with the other group A clash between Central African Republic (CAR) and Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is leading the group with 10 points, two ahead of the second-placed South Africa, while Botswana is third with seven points. CAR is out of contention on three points.
For South Africa to go through, they will have to defeat Botswana, and hope that Ethiopia loses or draws against CAR.
Botswana could still sneak in if they defeat South Africa by a huge margin and hope CAR downs Ethiopia.
A win for Ethiopia will eliminate all the other teams, and the East Africans will go through to the play-offs stage where five African representatives to go to Brazil will be determined.
The Bafana Bafana squad will assemble on Sunday, 1 September and will depart for Durban on Monday, 2 September.
Meanwhile tickets for the annual Nelson Mandela Challenge clash are already on sale.
The tickets are selling for R50 and R100 and can be bought at Computicket, Shoprite, Checkers and Shoprite/Checkers outlets around the country.
BAFANA BAFANA v BOTSWANA
Itumeleng Khune, Wayne Sandilands, Senzo Meyiwa
Thabo Nthethe, Anele Ngcongca, Bongani Khumalo, Tsepo Masilela, Siyanda Xulu, Buhle Mkhwanazi, Thabo Matlaba
Kagisho Dikgacoi, Dean Furman, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Oupa Manyisa, Andile Jali, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Bongani Zungu, Thulani Serero, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Daine Klate
Bernard Parker, Tokelo Rantie, Kermit Erasmus
BAFANA BAFANA v ZIMBABWE
Itumeleng Khune, Wayne Sandilands, Darren Keet
Eric Mathoho, Tshepo Gumede, Thabo Nthethe, Tsepo Masilela, Buhle Mkhwanazi, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Marc van Heerden
Hlompho Kekana, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Bongani Zungu, Thuso Phala, Siphiwe Tshabalala, David Mathebula, Ruzaigh Gamildien, Lerato Chabangu, Luyolo Nomandela
Bernard Parker, Lebogang Manyama, Siphelele Mthembu, Kermit Erasmus