Tokelo Rantie's omission from Bafana squad stands out like a sore thumb
After the disasters against Cape Verde‚ Stuart Baxter could scarcely afford naming a squad for Bafana Bafana’s 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Burkina Faso that raised too many question marks.
Seemingly‚ though‚ that is what the Bafana coach did on Wednesday ahead of the October 7 match at FNB Stadium.
Particularly notable was the omission of Tokelo Rantie.
It stood out like a sore thumb‚ much as Ronwen Williams’s inclusion as the goalkeeper in Bafana’s 2-1 Group D defeat against Cape Verde in Praia on September 1 did‚ and the results of that questionable decision were catastrophic.
Rantie scored Bafana’s lone goal in that match‚ even if he had a quieter game in the 2-1 return defeat at Moses Mabhida Stadium four days later.
Those bombshell results‚ along with the annulment of the 2-1 win against Senegal‚ have left Bafana needing victories from their last three games – against Burkina‚ then November’s home replay against Senegal‚ then Senegal away – to stand a slim chance of reaching Russia 2018.
In place of Rantie‚ Baxter has called up Al Ahly’s new signing Phakamani Mahlambi‚ who has also lacked game time‚ uncapped Valenciennes striker Lebo Mothiba and Dino Ndlovu‚ prolific recently at his club in Azerbaijan‚ but never previously in the PSL.
Explaining Rantie’s omission Baxter said: “Tokelo got a red card (for Genclerbirligi in Turkey) and three-match suspension‚ which means he’s been very inactive.
“He was playing wide as a midfield player for his club‚ and wasn’t playing every game‚ then he got a red card‚ and I thought that inactivity reflected in his performance in the second game (against Cape Verde).
“And with him now being inactive in his next (club) game‚ he’ll have very limited game time when we come to what is a very important game for us.”
Baxter used lack of game time as his reasoning for his omission of Rantie‚ but still called up Mulomowandau Mathoho‚ who has been out of action suspended for Kaizer Chiefs from a red card.
The centreback’s recent lack of confidence cost Bafana with a rash challenge and red card in the first defeat against Cape Verde.
There are question marks too‚ at right-back.
Uncapped Thamsanqa Mkhize of Cape Town City and U-20 international Reeve Frosler of Bidvest Wits are the call-ups in place of injured Ramahlwe Mphahlele.
Abbubaker Mobara‚ who has battled a thigh injury and not been playing for Orlando Pirates‚ is dropped.
“Lebo Mothiba has been playing really well. I spoke to his coach‚ and he’s an interesting player. So he gets in because we want to encourage also the younger players‚” Baxter said.
“Because we’ve got a big squad and not all of them will play‚ but in the event of a second (friendly) game they will get international experience.
“The same with Reeve Frosler. If you bring in Frosler‚ and he doesn’t play‚ he’s going to get the experience. If you bring in Mobara and he doesn’t play‚ he’s already had the experience and the opportunity.”
Baxter had in the past expressed skepticism about the strength of the league in Azerbaijan.
Yet he has included Ndlovu because he is playing and scoring there‚ over Rantie‚ who is not playing has a record of performing for the national team regardless of that factor.
It seems a squad with an uncomfortable amount of question marks. Baxter‚ of course‚ will live and die as coach by his decisions.
He can only hope it all comes together against Burkina Faso‚ or the public backlash the coach has already experienced from the Cape Verde disasters will only grow.