New-look Bafana ready to play despite uncertainties

Bafana Bafana making a fresh new start, though with uncertainties about the availability of midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo, their standing in World Cup qualifiers, and even who will be their new coach, take on Guinea-Bissau in Durban tomorrow.

There is one huge positive aspect to this friendly international at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, which precedes another against Angola in East London.

Caretaker coach Owen Da Gama has selected a squad packed with in-form PSL players and young talent, combined with the core of the team that beat Senegal 2-1 in a now-disputed World Cup qualifier in Polokwane in November.

It is a squad that promises much, and the new blood seems set to ensure competitive outings from Bafana in these two matches, with places to play for in the big away and home Russia 2018 qualifiers against Cape Verde Islands on August 28 and September 2.

One uncertainty stems from this being a team in limbo, sacked Shakes Mashaba’s former assistant Da Gama taking over as caretaker ahead of the SA Football Association announcing a new head coach.

Another is over Mokotjo, with Da Gama saying yesterday he was still awaiting the go-ahead from Safa, who are in turn waiting on Home Affairs, to find out if Mokotjo is eligible after complications stemming from the FC Twente player attaining Dutch citizenship.

A third is that Bafana also face the prospect of Fifa potentially ordering the Senegal game, which left SA strongly-placed in Group D of their World Cup qualifiers, to be replayed after findings of match-fixing.

Da Gama said the focus for Bafana this week had been on the field.

“The focus is on the next two games. Administrative things we don’t focus on,” he said.

From the way he and captain Itumeleng Khune spoke yesterday, the adventurous squad picked, and tension of waiting to find out a new coach have created more of a “winds of change” atmosphere of excitement and anticipation than one of anxiety.

Guinea-Bissau, like Cape Verde, have strong ties with Portugal, where many of their players are based, so they could be ideal preparation.

And the world’s 80th-ranked team should also be no pushovers for 62nd-placed Bafana.

The West Africans from a country with a population of 1.7 million reached their first Africa Cup of Nations finals this year.

They drew there against hosts Gabon and lost narrowly against eventual winners Cameroon.

“They just arrived yesterday,” Da Gama said.

“We have just received their squad and they have come with a very good one.

“Guinea-Bissau are one of the countries who really want to prove that they are going places.

“They caught a lot of people by surprise at the Nations Cup with their performances and want people to take note of them.”

Even without Mokotjo, some of the players called up by Da Gama have a lot to prove.

Much is expected of firsttimers Percy Tau and Phakamani Mahlambi, and recalled but still internationally inexperienced Lebogang Manyama and Thabo Mnyamane.

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