Dutch-South African hopes to impress Bafana coach and earn international debut
Lars Veldwijk got off to a bright start in his first Bafana Bafana training session yesterday despite being troubled by the heat in Polokwane as he banged in an impressive goal.
The 25-year-old Dutch-South African is hoping to impress Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba enough to make his international debut in Saturday’s crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier against Senegal at the Peter Mokaba Stadium (kickoff 3pm).
Veldwijk ‚ the 1.96-metre striker from Bidvest Wits goalkeeper Darren Keet’s old Belgian club KV Kortrjik‚ has earned a first call-up on the back of an impressive scoring record in Europe.
The player said his father‚ a South African citizen and the reason Veldwijk is eligible to play for Bafana‚ would travel to Polokwane to be in the stands on Saturday.
Veldwijk said it had been a good training session yesterday, but added: “Limpopo is one of the hottest parts of South Africa‚ so it’s a bit tough for me.”
Veldwijk ‚ a man mountain of a forward who scored 14 goals in 33 games for PEC Zwolle in the Dutch Eredivisie last season‚ said he had only briefly met Mashaba since his arrival.
“We had just a small chat when I arrived‚ but it was late in the evening. I hope to have a longer one later this week.”
The striker said the timing of his call-up had caught him by surprise.
“In March it was in a newspaper‚ and then it didn’t happen for a few months‚” Veldwijk said.
“I am a bit nervous but most of all it’s a lot of positive energy – new things and new players. I’m looking forward to it. “Senegal are a good team and they have some good players‚ so it will be a difficult match.”
“But we play at home‚ hopefully with a lot of our fans‚ so I’m positive about Saturday.”
Bafana started their Russia 2018 qualifiers with a 1-1 away draw against Burkina Faso last month.
Senegal began with a 2-0 home win against Cape Verde Islands, marking a run of six successive victories.
With a bevy of world stars‚ led by Liverpool’s Sadio Mane‚ they are a formidable force on paper and understandably the favourites in Group D of the African qualifiers for Russia 2018.
They share the group with Bafana‚ Burkina Faso and the Cape Verde Islands.
But it is not an immovable force that South Africa will be playing as, for years, Senegal have looked a force to be reckoned with‚ but have not lived up to their potential.
The current crop of players have had poor returns in recent Nations Cup tournaments and also in their bid to return to the World Cup finals.
Senegal’s performance benchmark remains the 2002 World Cup‚ where they became only the second African country to reach the last eight.
– Additional reporting by Mark Gleeson