|LAUGHABLE: Mashaba and Jordaan|
But somehow South Africa’s 55 million must live with the frustration of another goalless draw at the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday against the side currently ranked 160 in the world.
And all this after those appalling 0-0 draws with Botswana and Malawi at the COSAFA Cup, which BOTH ended in penalty shoot-out defeats. Guess who was hosting that one. Three home games, no goals. Urgh.
And before that? One point at AFCON 2015 after an impressive qualifying campaign under Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba. We haven’t scored since the first half of our last game in Equatorial Guinea, where South Africa left with the equal-poorest record in the tournament.
Some insect species have lived an etire life-time, born, married, had kids and taken a pension since South Africa last won a competitive football match under the guidance of the man who insisted we would win AFCON 2015 and might still win the World Cup in 2018. Bollocks of course.
Sadly, in his lucid moments, the man now known as Shaky is also forced to repeat the same dull mantra tried endlessly by his predecessors. “We should have scored three or four in the last 15 minutes. If we’d done that, we’d be talking something different after the game.”
Yes Shaky, you’re right. But we’ve been saying that for years now. Mashaba goes a step further: “It’s not just a national team problem, it’s a South African problem, no team in the country scores goals.”
That’s simply not true. We cannot blame Mashaba for the glaring misses from Thabo Matlaba and Thuso Phala on Saturday, but we CAN ask about his selection policy.
After taking a look at the PSL’s top scorers Moeketsi Sekola (Free State Stars, 14), Lerato Lamola (Bloemfontein Celtic, 13) and Puleng Tlolane (Polokwane City, 11) and NFD goal-getter Phumelela Bhengu (22 for Thanda Royal Zulu), Shaky went in to the opening AFCON 2017 qualifier with a whole new forward line.
Inexplicably, Bonginkosi Ntuli, Vuyisile Wana and Gift Motupa were suddenly elevated to stardom, alongside Tokelo Rantie, who got married last Saturday.
Predictably, Rantie – who played 128 minutes in TOTAL for promoted Bournemouth last season, never turned up. The honeymoon was clearly too good to cut short. Kermit Erasmus, with 15 goals in all competitions for Orlando Pirates this season, went public on twitter to tell us he wasn’t a back up player. And he was on holiday in Holland.
So Mashaba plumped for Thamsanqa Gabuza, who scored three times for Pirates in the Confederations Cup against some outfit from Gabon after the season closed. During the actual PSL season, Gabuza failed to score a league goal while Erasmus and Lehlohonolo Major netted 18 between them.
And when it came to match day, Mashaba promptly ignored the other strikers chosen in the squad and plumped for Gabuza.
It makes no sense to do that. It de-motivates the players picked for the original 23 and leads mischievous journalists to believe some players are only slipped in to the squad to please certain agents.
It’s not just up front that Mashaba dithers. It's all over the field; often he calls up players who haven't even been playing regularly for their clubs, often on the advice of a friendly agent. Oh, and he likes to rotate goalkeepers and captaincy too, insisting: "What does a captain do anyway except toss the coin at the start of the game?"
Just look at the lack of leadership on Saturday, the lack of drive, urgency. But it's more. His substitutions on Saturday, as Gambia ran out of steam in their first competititive match since being banned for U20 age cheating in 2014, were laughable.
He whipped off Gabuza, the only real striker, and shoved on Thuso Phala, who promptly put a glorious chance straight in to the arms of the Gambian goalkeeper from six yards.
In the end, man of the match Thabo Matlaba had the best chances from left back, one well saved, the other fluffed high in to the Durban night sky.
Shaky says international selection has to be about consistency and form. But he leaves FC Twente’s Kamohelo Mokotjo – picked as the central midfielder in the Dutch Ere Divisie’s team of the season – at home, while picking Ayanda Patosi and the “banned” May Mahlangu.
It’s inexplicable. It’s obvious. This is a man who laughs off preparation, insisting he doesn't like spying on future opponents. This is a man who admits he's a motivator, not a tactician. A shouter not a thinker.
But I've said all this and nobody listened. And the truth is, we have to give Shakes some breaks. SAFA are far too busy with the current FIFA allegations to deal with another Bafana Bafana coaching change. And Dean Furman, Tower Mathoho, Tefu Mashamaite and Rantie made last week pretty difficult.
We keep the faith. Group M has a long way to go. Cameroon and Mauritania will be touge than Gambia. The friendly against Angola could be disastrous. Yet we must believe in our coach and his unusual, often eccentric methods.
But please, Shaky… just this once. Let’s pick our strongest players FROM THE START.