Depleted Bafana dealt injury blow as Ngoma pulls out of Cosafa Cup
South Africa’s hopes in the Cosafa Cup were handed a blow on Thursday after star attacker Aubrey Ngoma was ruled out of the tournament with a knee ligament injury that could keep him out for months.
It leaves a threadbare squad even more depleted and coach Stuart Baxter scratching his head about a possible replacement for arguably the best player in his pick-up selection.
“It’s an injury that he has carried through the season‚ an old injury that has now completely torn.
"He has had a scan and the doctor has told me he could be out for a while‚” Baxter said on Thursday of the Cape Town City winger’s condition.
Lehlogonolo Masalesa is also a doubt with an ankle injury but was named captain.
Baxter said it was an injury that would heal with rest and the player said he was confident would be ready by the time South Africa play their first game in the competition at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace on Sunday afternoon.
The Greek-based midfielder‚ who is likely to be a free agent on Saturday when his contract at Larissa comes to an end‚ said the South African squad was made up of a “good crop of players”.
“I believe we have a very interesting group who want to go as far as possible in the tournament.
"My own idea is to improve as a player and learn from a coach like Stuart Baxter‚” he told a press conference on Thursday‚ at which point Baxter interrupted him to announce that Masalesa would skipper the team.
“Vieria’s comments have earned him the captaincy‚” he joked.
“No‚ seriously we had decided he would be skipper before those comments.
"He’s achieving overseas‚ he’s a personality and a player whose quality can be seen on the field. He’s got the right presence to be a captain‚” added Baxter.
“When I was at Chiefs‚ he was a player that I wanted to sign.”
Masalesa‚ 25‚ responded: “That’s a lot for me to digest so I don’t want to make an irrational answer.
"It’s a shock because I believe there are several leaders in this squad. It’s a big honour I plan to take it in my stride.
"I’m going to give my mom a call now to tell her she better be watching on Sunday
“I feel I have come a long way in the last six months in Greece. A lot happened in my time at Orlando Pirates that I don’t want to talk about and no one expected me to make the move overseas.
"But even though I arrived there in winter and with a difficult language and food‚ I just concentrated on my football.
“Now I want to make the best of this opportunity‚” the new captain added.
South Africa are defending champions in the Cosafa Cup and make a belated entry at quarter-final stage‚ where they take on the winner of Group A.
That will be settled on Thursday night when Angola play Malawi and Tanzania take on Mauritius in the last of the first round group games.