Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki has announced his 23-man squad for the upcoming Nelson Mandela Challenge on 13 October.
The South African national team are set to welcome Mali to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth when the two sides square off in the competition, with kick-off set for 3pm.
Bafana were forced to abandon their international friendlies against Zambia and Madagascar during the Fifa international break, due to the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
Ntseki has made two changes to the squad for the cancelled international friendly against Zambia earlier this month.
He has called up Themba Zwane and Mosa Lebusa in place of Rivaldo Coetzee and Lebohang Maboe, all from Mamelodi Sundowns.
After the withdrawal of Zambia, this will be Ntseki’s first match in charge of Bafana Bafana following the resignation of head coach Stuart Baxter after the Afcon tournament.
The fixture is part of South Africa’s preparation for next month’s back-to-back 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Ghana and Sudan.
‘This is a very important match for us as it will determine our way forward in the sense of how we are going to play and approach matches. We could not play a match in the last training camp due to reasons known to everyone, but we had good training in anticipation of that game,’ said Ntseki.
‘But it will be crucial for us to start the journey of the Afcon qualifiers on a positive note. What I also want to see from the players is the mental attitude that there are no friendly matches in international football; we have to do the best we can to win every fixture because winning can become a habit – and on the other hand so can losing. Once we do well against Mali, it will stand us in good stead against Ghana and Sudan next month.’
This will be the fourth meeting between Bafana Bafana and the Eagles of Mali.
The visitors have won two of the encounters and drawn one, with the hosts reigning supreme in one match.
‘Mali will present us with a headache as they are tough opponents – first of all they are above us on the Fifa rankings and they did well at the Afcon recently in Egypt. But then again we need these type of opponents to improve ourselves. They are very tough customers but we will be up for the challenge,’ added Ntseki.
‘I am also honoured to be part of this great match to honour the greatest South African statesman, former President Nelson Mandela. It is a huge privilege to be leading the team in this annual fixture and I am confident that we will make sure the trophy does not leave these shores. All I can do is urge the fans to come in numbers to be part of this event where we honour our icon.’
Mali is ranked 11th on the continent, two places above Bafana Bafana. In the world, the West Africans are in position 57 compared to South Africa’s 71st spot.
The full Bafana Bafana 23-man squad:
Goalkeepers: Darren Keet, Ronwen Williams, Brandon Peterson
Defenders: Eric Mathoho, Buhle Mkhwanazi, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Thapelo Morena, Mosa Lebusa, Thamsanqa Mkhize, Innocent Maela
Midfielders: Kamohelo Mokotjo, Thato Mokeke, Dean Furman, Lebogang Phiri, Bongani Zungu, Themba Zwane, Thembinkosi Lorch, Percy Tau, Thulani Serero, Keagan Dolly
Strikers: Lebo Mothiba, Bradley Grobler, Kermit Erasmus
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