We've got news for you.

Register on HeraldLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

Evidence Makgopa replaces Lebo Mothiba as injuries frustrate Bafana

Evidence Makgopa during the Bafana Bafana training session at Tuks High Performance Centre in Pretoria on Monday.
Evidence Makgopa during the Bafana Bafana training session at Tuks High Performance Centre in Pretoria on Monday.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

His build-up to the Fifa World Cup qualifiers and Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals have been constantly disrupted by squad members' withdrawals, but Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos is not too worried.   

South Africa start the 2026 World Cup qualifiers by hosting Benin at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday (3pm) before they travel to Rwanda to take on the Wasps in Huye next week Tuesday.   

Broos will kick off the qualifiers without key members of his squad such as two strikers — the UK-based Lyle Foster and French-based Lebo Mothiba — and Orlando Pirates defender Innocent Maela.   

Burnley FC target-man Foster is battling mental health illness while Mothiba has withdrawn from the squad and has been replaced by Evidence Makgopa. The 23-year-old striker scored the winner for Pirates in their 1-0 Soweto derby win against Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday, and was a crucial attacker drafted into the squad when Bafana ran Ghana with goals scored in the 2022 World Cup qualifying group stage.   

There is a possibility of more withdrawals as two Mamelodi Sundowns players, Grant Kekana and Thapelo Maseko, are waiting for their fates to be decided by the medical staff with niggling injuries.   

Withdrawals have been a persisting problem for Broos as star player Percy Tau pulled out of the previous camp for the friendly matches against Eswatini and Ivory Coast.   

“I’m a bit unhappy and I’m not blaming anyone, but that has happened a lot in the last three months,” Broos said.   

“We had a lot of injuries in the last two months and there were a lot of players who have not been there.   

“When you look now you can see Mothiba is not there. I had a telephone chat with his coach, and we had the medical report of Mothiba. He is not able to play on Saturday.   

“We have Kekana and Maseko also [doubtful] at the moment.   

“It’s a bit of a pity it has happened in the last month because little by little we were working to [put together] the team that we wanted to work with in preparations for those two qualifiers and Afcon.   

“But we didn’t really have the opportunity to do it because we always had to change players due to injuries.   

“But again, that can happen and it’s a pity that it happens now in the last three months every time we have a camp.”   

The Bafana boss remains confident the players he has in the camp can do the job as most of them have been part of his national team set-up and are up to speed about the expectations.   

“With the guys we have, and certainly the [other] guys will return for Afcon, [I’m confident] we will be strong enough to go to Afcon and have good results.

“Also, I’m not worried about the quality of the group now, even when those players are not there. I think we have worked on the squad depth in the last months to have other players and see them during those camps.   

“I think we will not have that problem where I have to say after the game against Benin, if the results are not good, that this one was not here and that one was not here. I will not do that — I have confidence in those who are here, and I know that with these players we will have good results.”   

Broos has emphasised the need to start well in the World Cup qualifiers to set the tone for the rest of the group stage. 

South Africa are also drawn with Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Lesotho in Group C. The winners of the nine six-team groups qualify for the 48-team 2026 World Cup in Mexico, Canada an the US. The four best runners-up go into a playoff to determine one team for an inter-confederation playoff.

The Nations Cup is being staged in Ivory Coast in January and February.