Vincent Pule may have been a late call-up, but Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo has said he would like to see his ex-Bidvest Wits teammate get a run in Bafana Bafana’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Libya in Durban.
Winger Pule has been in such fine form at the start of 2018/2019 season for new club Orlando Pirates that he was unlucky not to have been named in Stuart Baxter’s original squad for Saturday’s Cameroon 2019 qualifier at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
A dislocated toe for Themba Zwane in Mamelodi Sundowns’ MTN8 semifinal against Cape Town City saw Pule – devastatingly penetrative for Pirates, and unfortunate to score just one goal, hitting the post at least three times – called in.
Pule might well have put his name forward for even a starting place, scoring one of Bafana’s goals – the other was by Bradley Grobler – in a friendly win against AmaZulu at the Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu on Wednesday.
“I’m hoping Pule can get an opportunity to display his talent,” Hlatshwayo said this week, when asked who from the squad he thought might be a Bafana player to watch against Libya.
“We know that we’ve lost four players. Some of them are the guys who played against Nigeria – they’re the regulars in the Bafana camp.
“So I think this will be an opportunity for the new guys to step up because this is not a team, it’s a country, and we all want to represent it.”
In the form he is in, against Libya, who have drawn nine of their last 19 matches and are difficult to break down defensively, Pule might have something to offer Bafana, whether starting or off the bench.
The Buccaneer is one of four replacements.
Sundowns’ Tiyani Mabunda has come in for teammate Hlompho Kekana in central midfield, SuperSport United utility player Maphosa Modiba replaces Amiens’s Bongani Zungu and Wits centre-forward Mxolisi Macuphu has replaced Strasbourg striker Lebogang Mothiba. The injuries to Zungu and Kekana have made the most likely midfield pairing on Saturday – SuperSport United’s Dean Furman and Brentford’s Kamohelo Mokotjo – though Mabunda has a chance to force his way in too.
Mokotjo was asked if he feels any pressure in the crucial central midfield, where games can be won or lost, for this potentially make-or-break match.
A win for SA, given Seychelles will surely be whipping boys, would see Bafana well on their way to being qualified after just two matches, the first the 2-0 away win against Nigeria in 2017.
“I believe games are won everywhere. Everyone is responsible for their task on the pitch,” Mokotjo said.
“We have players who have been here before.
“So, it’s just that the players, who are here need to step up.”
Baxter has expressed concern that, though he has researched Libya, they have a new coach, 50-year-old Adel Amrouche, the former Kenya boss who replaced Omar AlMaryami in May.
Because of that, he says he cannot be sure how the Mediterranean Knights will play.
“I just think we need to focus on what we can do best. I think that’s the secret really – nothing special,” Mokotjo said.
Libya began their Afcon 2019 Group E campaign with a 5-1 win against Seychelles in Egypt in 2017.
The top two teams from each group qualify.