Selection poser for Baxter ahead of Bafana's crunch World Cup qualifier

25 October 2017 - 16:10 By Marc Strydom
Bafana Bafana and Bidvest Wits captain Thulani Hlatshwayo has a moment of prayer during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifying match between Nigeria and South Africa at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium on June 10, 2017 in Uyo State, Nigeria.
Bafana Bafana and Bidvest Wits captain Thulani Hlatshwayo has a moment of prayer during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Qualifying match between Nigeria and South Africa at Godswill Akpabio International Stadium on June 10, 2017 in Uyo State, Nigeria.
Image: Kabiru Abubakar/Gallo Images

Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo and striker Tokelo Rantie are expected to return when Stuart Baxter names his squad on Thursday for next month’s must-win World Cup qualifiers against Senegal.

Baxter is unlikely to make wholesale changes from his squad that beat Burkina Faso 3-1 at FNB Stadium on October 7.

Hlatshwayo was out injured as Baxter had to play with a makeshift defence against Burkina.

The Bidvest Wits captain made a return to action for his club in Sunday’s 1-0 Absa Premiership win against Baroka FC in Polokwane‚ though was booked and picked up an immediate one-game suspension.

Hlatshwayo will miss Wits’ Telkom Knockout last-16 clash against Free State Stars at Bidvest Stadium on Saturday but can return for the Clever Boys’ home league game against Chippa United on November 1.

Baxter will hope his captain can get a run in that match as Hlatshwayo will be in need of match practise having sat out most of October.

The defender pulled out a day before Wits’ 1-0 win against Orlando Pirates on September 23 with a knee injury sustained in training.

Hlatshwayo’s return might raise a selection poser for Baxter.

Clayton Daniels and Morgan Gould put in a solid shift as the coach’s central defensive pairing against Burkina‚ in a match where Bafana bounced back from disastrous back-to-back 2-1 defeats against Cape Verde in September.

Those results‚ then the win against Burkina‚ have left Bafana needing to beat Senegal twice – in Polokwane on Friday‚ November 10 and Dakar on Tuesday‚ November 14 – to top Group D and qualify for Russia 2018.

Injuries meant Baxter had to field a defence against Burkina that retained just two players – Gould and left-back Sifiso Hlanti – from the loss against Cape Verde a month before.

On the coach’s injured list‚ Hlatshwayo’s Wits centreback teammate Buhle Mkhwanazi and Kaizer Chiefs right-back Ramahlwe Mphahlele remain on the sidelines.

Rantie was strangely dropped by the coach for the Burkina game having scored against Cape Verde in Praia‚ the reason being the striker would be suspended at Turkish club Genclerbirligi and therefore lacking match practice.

The pacey striker has played three games since‚ two as a substitute and one starting‚ including coming off the bench and setting up the winner in Genclerbirligi’s home 2-1 win in the Ankara club’s big match against Istanbul rivals Besiktas on October 13.

The Bafana striker‚ though‚ was not in the squad for Genclerbirligi’s 3-3 draw away against Akhisar Belediyespor on Saturday and TimesLIVE was unable to establish if this was due to an injury.

The SA Football association have lodged an appeal against the suspension of Bafana central midfielder Bongani Zungu‚ who they believe was incorrectly red-carded against Burkina.

Even if they are successful‚ Andile Jali will remain suspended in that key area. Baxter might opt for the impressively improving SuperSport United Under-20 international Teboho Mokoena as cover.


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