Bafana Bafana preparations continue in earnest at People’s Park, next to the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. South Africa faces Gambia in the first match of the CAF Orange Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 qualifiers. The clash will be played on Saturday, at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Kickoff is at 15:00. All the players – except Oupa Manyisa – were back at full training, including Sphelele Ntshangase who has joined from the National Under-23 squad, Thuso Phala who was suffering from a bout of flu, Thulani Hlatshwayo who had tight thigh muscles. Manyisa sat out the morning session due to tight muscles.
Tokelo Rantie has still not reported for training but the matter should be clearer this evening after a meeting of the Bafana Bafana technical team. Meanwhile Itumeleng Khune believes a good start for the national team will be very crucial against Gambia. He was not part of the Bafana Bafana squad during the 2015 AFCON qualifiers and also missed the tournament due to injury.
He only made his return earlier this year after an absence of just over a year. Khune says: ‘First of all it is good to be back in the national team, all the keepers who are here are good enough and very competitive, we push one another for the benefit of the country. Whoever starts on Saturday will have our support. I am happy to be back even though I was not getting enough game time at my club but I have shown that I am capable of doing the business. I don’t know much about Gambia but by the time we face them we should know what we are dealing with. I have heard that they have more than 10 Europe-based players which means it is going to be a tough match for us and a very important one to win so we start on a high.’ The goalkeeper has been the talk of the town after his club decided not to renew his contract.
He says: ‘I told myself that as soon as I get to the national team I have to switch off on other matters, and I have been able to do that very well. There is nothing bothering me at the moment, I am fully focussed on the national team.’ He is the most experienced player in the squad with 66 caps and says the national team is under pressure to do well, but they have to deal with that pressure: ‘Pressure is always there for us footballers. When you walk in the streets people always remind us of what we have done in the past and what you have to do in the future – the big challenge is how you handle the pressure that comes, so we have to take it one game at a time. This Saturday we have to make sure that we apply ourselves and give our best for the country. Our culture is winning every game, even in international friendlies we strive to win, we give our all. Playing at home means we have the support so it is crucial that we start on a positive note with a convincing win. We know what lies ahead of us. We just need to start well and I believe the team is ready.’
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