Head coach Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba has announced a 26-man Bafana Bafana squad for the final two Orange Africa Cup of Nations, Morocco 2015 qualifiers against Sudan and Nigeria. South Africa will host Sudan on Saturday, 15 November at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban before rounding up the qualifiers with an away encounter against reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions Nigeria on 19 November at the newly-built Ibo International Stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. The Moses Mabhida game kicks off at 15:00 while the Nigeria game starts at 18:00 local time.
The squad announcement was initially scheduled for last Thursday, 30 October but had to be postponed due to the sudden passing away of Bafana Bafana goalkeeper and captain Senzo Meyiwa in whose honour the clash against Sudan will be played. “We went through a very hectic period following the passing on of Senzo. This will be the first time we meet since this tragedy befell us but we just have to accept and move forward. It is going to be a difficult thing but everything happens for a reason and I believe through God’s will, the players will automatically be able to play above themselves. I don’t think it is going to be a gloomy period in camp, we can only hope this is over and start marching on. We will play for him as he did a sterling job towards this team’s qualification, so we need carry the baton and ensure we qualify for Morocco 2015,” said Mashaba. The Bafana Bafana mentor says his charges are aware of the importance of the two matches, “We need people who are going to compete as we know that the last two games are very crucial. After playing Sudan we face Nigeria – and here it’s not just about the three points, it is also about pride as Nigeria would not want to lose to us but I believe it is our time to defeat them. We drew 0-0 but I think they were fortunate not to lose. The boys coming into camp have to give their best but we are not going to put pressure on them. We need to beat Sudan at home and make sure that we are comfortable in terms of qualifying for Morocco.”
On the issue of the replacement of Senzo, the coach had this to say, “The replacement of Senzo is a two-pronged issue – one as a goalkeeper and two as a captain, and both will have to be decided before we play our first match. We will have a good look at the players that will be in camp and we will make a decision at the right time. It will not be an easy thing to replace Senzo in both positions, but we will do our best to find a suitable replacement and life has to go on. We are also confident that whoever takes over one or two of those roles will be able to deliver.” Bafana Bafana go into camp on Sunday, 9 November and will travel down to Durban on Monday, 10 November to have their preparations. The team is also expected to visit Senzo’s grave to pay their last respects and also go to the family home to comfort the Meyiwa family.
In memory of Senzo, the players will wear black armbands in their clash against Sudan. Meanwhile tickets for that match are already on sale and available at Computicket outlets, Shoprite, Checkers and Shoprite/Checkers stores countrywide for R80 all round.