|Mind the holes: Igesund and Parker training yesterday|
GORDON IGESUND has revealed he will play former Orlando Pirates striker Tokelo Rantie and Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands for the first time in the must-win friendly against Kenya tomorrow night.
The Bafana coach, under pressure just three games in to his reign after the 1-0 loss in Poland on Friday night, refuses to buckle, insisting: “I always said the first four games would be about looking at the players, coming up with a settled squad for AFCON in January. That is my priority.”
Igesund also revealed how two key players – in-form Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and Orlando Pirates centre-back Siya Sangweni – had both suffered injuries while training at Nairobi’s national stadium.
A distinctly grumpy Igesund, speaking to Robert Marawa on Metro FM, said: “The conditions are not the greatest, it’s a very, very bumpy pitch.
“Siya Sangweni and Itumeleng Khune both hurt their ankles. There are holes everywhere. Both are treatable. Siyabonga will be okay I’m sure.
“I’ve asked for sand to be laid down, fill the holes up. It’s not great. I want to avoid injuries to our players and the opposition.
“Training today wasn’t great, the ball was bobbling. But it’s raining quite hard, so I’m hoping it won’t be so bumpy for the game. It might make it easier to keep possession.
“I’m definitely going to make changes, this is our whole plan for the first four games. I need to look at players, this is our last game like this.
“If we can get 75 percent of the team ready, great. We haven’t got any combinations yet. We haven’t had chance to decide how we counter-attack, defend, shuffle across. Our dead-balls… we haven’t done any of that yet.
“I want to turn this squad in to a unit, a team before January.”
Igesund, who lost 1-0 in Brazil and beat Mozambique 2-0 in his first two games in charge, knows a win tomorrow night is imperative with Kenya ranked a lowly 128th in the world and 27th in Africa. Bafana are currently listed at 76 by FIFA and 19 by CAF, putting them 10th among the 16 qualifiers for AFCON 2013 in South Africa next year.
Igesund confirmed: “I will change three of four players. I’ll definitely start with Sandilands in goal. Rantie has to get a shout, I have to look at him. He’s the type of player I have to consider, he gets in behind defenders, he’s got pace, he’s got strength, he’s looking good in training.
“I won’t make too many drastic changes, I want to do well. Delron Buckley, with his experience, uses the ball properly, he will definitely get a chance tomorrow.”
Though Igesund bemoaned the injuries which have left him experimenting at right back, he added: “I won’t make too many changes in defence. We’ll look at Sangweni overnight. I’ll probably start with the same two centre-backs, Sangweni and Bongani Khumalo.”
Controversial selection Ricardo Nunes, the left wing-back born in Johannesburg and now playing his football in Slovakia, is likely to get another chance to prove his worth for the nation he left as an eight-year-old.
Igesund said: “Ricardo puts a great ball in to the area. I think that’s where the game will be won tomorrow. We need to get the ball in there and get the big lads challenging.
“We’ve still got quite a bit of work to do. We will get better, obviously we will get better. We haven’t started coaching yet, the combination plays. We will create more chances.
“I wasn’t quite happy with the amount of chances we created Poland. All these little situations, every game is telling us more about our players.
“Dean Furman and Kagiso Dikgacoi I’m very happy with in midfield. They can both play as holding players. KD is getting forward for Crystal Palace in England… and in training. One can stay, one can go. We haven’t worked on these situations at the moment.
“I need sooner rather than later to get the bulk of the squad sorted out.
“It’s a good atmosphere here at the moment, everybody wants to play. That’s a very good sign, the attitude in training is good. Working hard, encouraging each other.
“The most important thing is when a team-mate respects you. That’s a big start, that’s what’s happened so far.”
Igesund revealed how he’d had a “familiarisation” session with his players while in Kenya, explaining: “I was watching training and I realised they didn’t know each other’s names. They were going er…er…er when they called for the ball. It’s normal. Some of them have never met before.
“It’s important they share rooms, find out if their team-mates married, got kids, hobbies. It’s all part of building a team that can work hard for each other, fight for each other. I want them to become friends, know that they’ve got each other’s back.
“It’s normal they didn’t know each other. When Rantie, Ndlovu came, certain players didn’t know each other. They were just whistling. They are very new to each other.
“I have given some thought to the teams that have qualified. When AFCON starts on January 19, we have to be ready for everybody, Ghana or Nigeria. There are a couple of big guns up there. Senegal getting knocked-out wasn’t a surprise. Cameroon was a bit of a shock.
“But the gap has closed, the teams in Africa are much closer together. It’s about playing well as a team, how badly do they want it?”