So contentious was the decision to include the Duduza-born star Bongani Zungu and Keagan Dolly in the Bafana Bafana squad to play Libya in the final Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier next weekend, that coach Stuart Baxter felt the need to pause and explain their inclusion, in the middle of reading out the list of 24 players who have been selected, on Monday.
The two returned to full training just recently at their respective French clubs – Amiens and Montpellier – having been sidelined by injury. Although he did explain that they have had a few reserve team game minutes under their belt since returning, and that he’d rather have their quality in camp rather than away from the team given that they are now “clinically fit”, Baxter was also quick to mention that they would still be assessed by the Bafana medical team to better understand just how ready they are for a game of such importance.
Bafana need to avoid defeat against the Libyans to qualify for the biennial continental championship that is to be held in Egypt later this year. A point would be enough to see them qualify along with the already-qualified Nigeria from Group E, as they have nine points from the five matches they have played so far. They are still unbeaten, having won twice – against the Super Eagles and the Seychelles – and have played three draws, against the same opposition in the return legs, as well as in the home game against Libya.
“I can’t tell you if they’re both going to be playing, and I can’t tell you if they’re both a 100% [fit]; but I think we wanna go the extra mile and find out,” cautioned Baxter. He says this is because, “I’m not sure that minutes in the reserve team and being clinically fit qualifies you to play in such an important game,” but also admits that, “Undoubtedly, if they are a 100% fit and looking sharp, the quality of Bongani and the quality of Keagan will be welcome.”
The match in Sfax, Tunisia will be played next Sunday.
The full Bafana squad is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Darren Keet (Bidvest Wits), Ronwen Williams (SuperSport United), and Bruce Bvuma (Kaizer Chiefs).
Defenders: Thulani Hlatshwayo (captain), Sifiso Hlanti, Buhlebuyeza Mkhwanazi (all Bidvest Wits), Daniel Cardoso (Kaizer Chiefs), Rivaldo Coetzee (Mamelodi Sundowns), Aubrey Modiba (SuperSport United), Innocent Maela (Orlando Pirates), and Thamsanqa Mkhize (Cape Town City FC).
Midfielders: Hlompho Kekana, Tiyani Mabunda, Themba Zwane (all Mamelodi Sundowns), Dean Furman (SuperSport United), Kamohelo Mokotjo (Brentford FC, England), Thulani Serero (Vitesse FC, The Netherlands), Bongani Zungu (Amiens), and Thembinkosi Lorch (Orlando Pirates).
Strikers: Lebohang Maboe (Mamelodi Sundowns), Lebo Mothiba (Strasbourg, France), Percy Tau (Royal Union Saint, Belgium), Lars Veldwijk (Sparta Rotterdam, The Netherlands), and Keagan Dolly (Montpellier).