Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has named a 26-man squad that will face Senegal in back-to-back matches next month.
Baxter’s men first face the Lions of Teranga on the 10th of November at Peter Mokaba stadium in a replay of their controversial match from last year November, after which they travel to Dakar a week later in their bid to qualify for next year’s world cup in Russia.
There have been no wholesale changes to Baxter’s squad, following their impressive 3-1 win against Burkina Faso at FNB stadium earlier this month.
Bidvest Wits defender Thulani Hlatshwayo returns from injury to captain and will likely be paired in the centre of the defence with Eric Mathoho who returns from suspension following an outburst against Cape Verde.
Supersport United captain Dean Furman also returns from suspension to add to the midfield options.
On attack, the Englishman will look to the inform Bradley Grobler as well as Qarabag’s Dino Ndlovu who was in impressive form in the UEFA Champions League against Atletico Madrid before getting sent off. Mamelodi Sundowns’ Percy Tau rounds off the forward options.
The closest thing to a shock selection is that of veteran midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala, who makes a welcome return to the national setup after three years in the wilderness. The 33-year old Kaizer Chiefs man has rolled back the years this season, putting on some big performances for the club.
Bongani Zungu and Andile Jali have both been included, despite facing suspension.
Zungu received a red card in the match against Burkina Faso and his suspension is subject to a FIFA disciplinary case, while Jali will only be available for the away leg in Dakar after collecting two yellow cards in the qualifiers.
“In an ideal world I would love to have all the players available for every match but we know it is not possible. In Zungu’s case we will await the outcome of sitting but we have a job to do, and if you thought playing Burkina Faso was a world cup final, I can tell you now that playing Senegal is much more important than that,” said Baxter.
“We have only one option – to win the remaining two games and book our ticket to Russia. Everyone, myself, the players, the Association, media and the public – is well aware that anything less than victory in both matches will be curtains for our world cup aspirations. We did well against Burkina Faso, so we have to keep on believing that is it is very much possible to qualify. The good thing is that it is all in our hands.”
Bafana sit at the bottom of Group D with just four points. Their opponents, Senegal top the group with eight points while Burkina Faso and Cape Verde are second and third respectively – tied on six points with just one match remaining.
Baxter’s men assemble on Sunday, 5 November and travel to Polokwane on Monday, 6 November where they will set up camp.
Bafana Bafana squad
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune , Wayne Sandilands, Ronwen Williams
Defenders: Thulani Hlatshwayo (captain), Eric Matoho, Clayton Daniels, Morgan Gould, Sifiso Hlanti, Motjeka Madisha, Teboho Langerman, Thamsanqa Mkhize
Midfielders: Hlompho Kekana, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Themba Zwane, Dean Furman, Keegan Dolly, Andile Jali, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Bongani Zungu, Thulani Serero, Phakamani Mahlambi, Lebohang Manyama, Siphiwe Tshabalala
Strikers: Percy Tau, Bradley Grobler, Dino Ndlovu