Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter has named a 30-man preliminary squad that will be in the training camp in preparation for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) that is set to be held in Egypt.
Star first-choice goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune remains on the sidelines due to a shoulder injury, as was predicted by his club coach Ernst Middendorp a few months ago, while Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Sibusiso Vilakazi returns after recovering from an achilles injury that kept him out of action for about five months. ‘Vila’ is named as one of the six strikers, which also include Kermit Erasmus of Cape Town City, whose exclusion caused an uproar within the football community ahead of the last qualification match against Libya in March.
Percy Tau expectedly also makes the strikers list, as well as Sundowns hotshot Lebohang Maboe.
Khune is replaced by his Kaizer Chiefs teammate Bruce Bvuma, whose inclusion in the team for the Libya match also came under scrutiny, while arguably Bafana’s best player in that match in Sfax, Tunisia, Darren Keet is also named, along with SuperSport United’s recently-crowned Absa Premiership goalkeeper of the season Ronwen Williams.
Baxter also included two overseas-based players who are awaiting their passports before they can join the team in the country, that being Crystal Palace defender Nikola Tavares and another defender Joel Unteresee who plays for FC Zurich in Switzerland. The squad, however, is still be trimmed to the final 23 players, which will be the one that represents the country at the tournament.
Bafana have been drawn in Group D along with the Ivory Coast, Morocco and neighbours Namibia for the tournament that will run between June 21 and July 19.
Full squad, Goalkeepers:
Darren Keet (Bidvest Wits), Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United), and Bruce Bvuma (Kaizer Chiefs).
Defenders: Thulani Hlatshwayo (Captain), Sifiso Hlanti, Buhle Mkhwanazi (all Bidvest Wits), Daniel Cardoso, Ramahlwe Mphahlele (both Chiefs), Rivaldo Coetzee (Mamelodi Sundowns), Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates), and Thamsanqa Mkhize (Cape Town City).
Midfielders: Bongani Zungu (Amiens, France), Hlompho Kekana, Tiyani Mabunda, Themba Zwane (all Sundowns), Dean Furman (SuperSport), Kamohelo Mokotjo (Brentford, England), Thulani Serero (Vitesse, The Netherlands), Thembinkosi Lorch, Ben Motshwari (both Orlando Pirates), Fortune Makaringe (Maritzburg United), and Keagan Dolly (Montpellier, France).
Strikers: Lebo Mothiba (Strasbourg, France), Percy Tau (Royal St. Union, Belgium), Lars Veldwijk (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands), Lebohang Maboe, Sibusiso Vilakazi (both Sundowns), Kermit Erasmus (Cape Town City).
Players awaiting passports: Nikola Tavares, Joel Unteresee.