Bafana Bafana coach Gordon Igesund believes he has selected one of the strongest squads of his 14-month tenure after unveiling a 23-man list to face Botswana in a crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier in Durban next week.
Former captain Bongani Khumalo has been recalled along with seven other foreign-based players, including Dean Furman and Thulani Serero.
“I think I’ve selected a very strong team, probably one of the strongest teams I’ve selected for a long time,” Igesund said today.
“We’ve been giving young players a chance and they have developed quite a lot in that time, which was very important for our plans going forward.
“So I’m quite happy with the progress made in that respect, but this game is one where we need the result and I’ve named a squad to do just that.”
Defender Khumalo had not played for South Africa since the Africa Nations Cup in January.
He returned to the team after his winter move to English club Doncaster Rovers, where he impressed in the opening weeks of the season.
Dutch-based midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo, who plays for PEC Zwolle, was the only uncapped player in the squad, while Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Bongani Zungu and University of Pretoria defender Buhle Mkhwanazi were two of the more inexperienced players who had been retained.
“Those that are selected are in top form at the moment,” Igesund said.
“I’ve spoken to their managers. I know (Doncaster coach Paul) Dickov is raving about Khumalo, so he deserves to be there.
“They are there because of hard work. A lot has gone into selecting this team, and I am confident we can come through and beat Botswana.”
The September 7 clash at Moses Mabhida Stadium is a must-win encounter for the hosts to keep alive their slim hopes of qualifying for the global showpiece.
Bafana Bafana were second in Group A and needed a victory as well as relying on current log leaders Ethiopia to fail against Central African Republic.
The match represented a second chance for the national side after they expected to be eliminated from qualifying following a 2-1 loss in Addis Ababa in June.
However, the Ethiopians were docked three points for fielding an ineligible player against Botswana earlier in the qualifying competition.
“This is exciting times for us because of the situation with Ethiopia – dropping some points and opening the door for us,” Igesund said.
“We all want them to draw or lose their last game, but we can’t worry about what happens in their game. We have to take control of what we can do and go out there and win the game.”
The national boss also announced a separate squad to play Zimbabwe at a yet-to-be-confirmed venue on September 10.
There are 13 players from the Botswana squad who would be released – all the overseas-based players and those from Orlando Pirates because of their CAF Champions League involvement.
Only striker Kermit Erasmus would remain from the Buccaneers owing to his ineligibility in the continental competition.
Thirteen others would be added to the list, among them new faces Darren Keet, Ruzaigh Gamildien and Siphelele Mthembu.
Bafana Bafana squad to play Botswana: Itumeleng Khune, Wayne Sandilands, Senzo Meyiwa; Siyanda Xulu, Bongani Khumalo, Thabo Nthethe, Anele Ngcongca, Tsepo Masilela, Thabo Matlaba, Buhle Mkhwanazi; Dean Furman, Oupa Manyisa, Andile Jali, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Bongani Zungu, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Daine Klate, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Thulani Serero; Bernard Parker, Tokelo Rantie, Kermit Erasmus.
Bafana Bafana squad to play 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, Lebogang Manyama, Ruzaigh Gamildien, Lerato Chabangu, Luyolo Nomandela; Bernard Parker, Siphelele Mthembu, Kermit Erasmus.
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