Itumeleng Khune and Erick Mathoho have been selected to represent South Africa at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
South Africa U23 coach Owen Da Gama selected just two over-age players, both from Kaizer Chiefs, in his 18-man squad for the Olympics.
The Kaizer Chiefs duo have been selected as Da Gama looks to bolster his fragile defence which has come under pressure recently including the 4-1 drubbing in Japan last month.
Khune is South Africa’s most capped goalkeeper and has captained the national team in recent outings and has been brought into the squad to add stability to the backline along with teammate Mathoho. Mathoho has been a regular for both club and country and is expected to partner Rivaldo Coetzee in central defence.
Khune has beaten former teammate Reyaad Pieterse for a place in Da Gama’s squad as one of just two goalkeepers selected. Pieterse impressed during the Cosafa Cup but has failed to convince the selectors to include him ahead of Khune. Jody February, the player who arguably earned South Africa their place at the event in August, is the second shot-stopper in the squad.
Da Gama opted to go with the tried and tested in midfield with regulars Keagan Dolly, Gift Motupa, Aubrey Modiba and Deolin Mekoa all earning a place in the squad. Phumlani Ntshangase has retained his place in the squad after Lebogang Phiri was not released for the tournament by his Danish side Brondby IF.
Thembinkosi Lorche, Thabiso Simon Kutumela and Judas Moseamedi have all been overlooked despite doing Cosafa Cup duty as Lille forward Lebo Mothiba is joined by Menzi Masuku and Tashreeq Morris.
Brazil-based forward Tyroane Sandows has been handed a surprise inclusion in the squad as the fourth attacker despite not being called up to any of Da Gama’s more recent squad. Sandows’ last involvement with a national team was in March last year when he scored a hat-trick for the Amajita in thier win over Zambia during the Youth Championships. The attack-minded player has been training with Gremio’s first team for some time.
SA U23 regulars Thembela Sikhakhane, Lorenzo Gordinho, Thapelo Morena and Tshepo Rikhotso have all missed out on the chance to feature in Brazil.
South Africa U23 squad for Rio 2016:
Goalkeepers: Jody February, Itumeleng Khune
Defenders: Kwanda Mngonyama, Rivaldo Coetzee, Abbubaker Mobara, Mothobi Mvala, Eric Mathoho, Tebogo Moerane, Tercious Molepe
Midfielders: Gift Motupa, Aubrey Modiba, Deolin Mekoa, Phumlani Ntshangase, Keagan Dolly
Forwards: Tyroane Sandows, Lebo Mothiba, Menzi Masuku, Tashreeq Morris
South Africa’s Rio 2016 fixtures:
4 August 2016: v Brazil at 16:00 (Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha)
7 August 2016: v Denmark at 19:00 (Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha)
10 August 2016: v Iraq at 22:00 (Arena Corinthians)