Thursday, 21 August 2014

It's Bafana Bafana time: the nation awaits Shakes Mashaba's high-noon announcement

Striking surprise: leading scorer Ndumiso Mabena
Shakes Mashaba will name his first Bafana Bafana line-up tomorrow at Cape Town Civic Centre at high  noon. And we have ABSOLUTELY no idea what his 23-man squad will look like.

The new South African national coach opens his AFCON 2015 campaign with Sudan in Khartoum on September 5 and Nigeria in Cape Town on September 10. But for a host of reasons, his preparations for these two vital international clashes carry the flavor of a hastily packaged pick and mix.

This is Bra Shakes THIRD spell in charge of Bafana and he has spent much of his time since his unveiling last month with the Under 20 AmaJitas.

He didn't appear at his own naming ceremony because he was on a four-game tour of West Africa with the young ones who have dominated the last decade of his coaching career. He won two and drew two on that trip… and then produced a creditable 1-1 draw in Cameroon last Saturday as he missed another chapter of domestic football at home.

At 63, Mashaba has the experience to overcome such problems. But does he have the back-up? Two weeks ago Danny Jordaan, the SAFA net president, told me a Technical Director would be named "in a week" to help Mashaba through what promises to be a turbulent reign.

We were also promised the names of Bafana's back-up crew. As I suggest last week, Shakes will probably name Gordon Igesund’s No 2 Serame Letsoake and his AmaJitas deputy Thabo Senong as his assistants tomorrow.

But here we are, naming the first squad… and there is no hint of a Technical Director and still no confirmation of who will assist Mashaba in the task of reaching Morocco next season.

And apparently he's going to carry on looking after the Under 20s for their return leg against Cameroon bang in the middle of his preparations for Sudan and Nigeria.

We have to believe that Shakes can cope with all this. We retain blind faith in a man who has been in charge of kids - and Lesotho - since he was suspended and sacked for ignoring South Africa's foreign-based stars when he was last in charge in 2004.

All that is acceptable. Clearly Mashaba was the sensible option with Carlos Queiroz demanding a sabbatical and $17m a year and Patrick Kluivert only ever a distant possibility in a short-list that was never really more than a wish-list for SAFA.

Now, ranked 69 in the world, South Africa go in to SAFA action against reinstated Congo, unbeatable Nigeria and unknown Sudan STILL without a proper foreign scouting network saddle with a coach who has watched precious little live PSL action a month in to the new season.

Incredibly, when I started discussing Mashaba's options of this squad on twitter yesterday, I was lambasted for telling the man who to pick. I'm not. It's advice. An opinion. I'm just hoping he's paying attention to the adults rather than the kids this week.

Clearly, Itumeleng Khune has been in imperious form and MUST retain the No 1 jersey (and captain's armband) despite the need for a clean-out. Kaizer Chiefs have played five, won five so far this season. And another of the golden oldies from Gordon Igesund's reign has also impressed - Reneilwe Letsholonyane looks like a new man this season.

With Bernard Parker and Simphiwe Tshabalala injured, Mashaba can safely omit a couple of the other old faithfuls… Thabo Nthethe, Kagiso Dikgacoi and Teko Modise are surely not the future either.

Mandla Masango at Chiefs and the unloved former Orlando Pirates striker Ndumiso Mabena at Platinum Stars have both shown considerable early season form - presumably Mashaba has caught up with that on video.

He'll need to look at Pirate Oupa Manyisa and the two Georges, Lebese and Maluleka too while Sbu Vilakazi's form at Wits needs examination, as does Buhle Makhwanazi since his move from AmaTuks.

And of course, in Holland, Kamohelo Mokotja is getting rave reviews at FC Twente while Thulani Serero at Ajax came on for the last 13 minutes over the weekend. Mashaba had Mokotja in his AmaJitas, we assume he's aware.

In England, Dean Furman is doing okay but Doncaster Rovers are now in the third tier League football, Kagiso Dikgacoi at relegated Premier League club Cardiff City is "carrying a knock" and former Pirates striker Tokelo Rantie remains a bit-part player at Bournemouth.

But will any of these players feature? Gordon Igesund used one of our football internet sites to keep himself up to date with Bafana's foreign stars. Mashaba has no foreign scouting network, no way of knowing how Siyanda Xulu is doing after his foot injury at Rostov in Russia or how Ayanda Patosi is playing at Lokeren in Belgium.

I hear Kagiso Nthle, the 20-year-old Peterborough full-back, picked up a groin injury last week. I keep up to date with Andile Jali's career at KV Oostende largely through twitter.

Is Mashaba doing the same? Does he phone these guys, talk to their coaches, or deal with agents? When he's hardly seen a live PSL game all season? What happened to the SAFA plan which would have seen Bafana's record cap-holder Aaron Mokoena installed as our foreign scout, with contacts around Europe?

But again. the fears are outweighing the hopes. Sudan are no great Shakes, apparently. Nigeria's Steve Keshi is doing his usual will-he-won't-he dance with the Super Eagles. And Congo didn't really deserve their reinstatement if truth be told.

If Shakes comes out tomorrow and names 23 unknown kids or decides to field the entire teenage contingent at Ajax Cape Town, who can blame him? After all, it's all about Vision 2022 at SAFA. Perhaps by then we'll have a Technical Director!

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