Bafana players to watch in coach David Notoane's Cosafa Cup squad
Coach David Notoane will take on his biggest job yet when he leads the South African side at the Cosafa Cup‚ tasked with not only blooding young players into top future internationals‚ but also weening some established stars back to full match sharpness with what should be three games in seven days.
South Africa take on Botswana in the quarterfinals on June 2‚ a side they have met in the last four Cosafa Cup tournaments and have yet to lose to in ordinary time.
Lifting the trophy will be a bonus for Notoane‚ but the week on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast means so much more to the team than that.
The obvious interest will centre around the form and fitness of Keagan Dolly‚ who senior head coach Stuart Baxter revealed had asked to be part of the Cosafa Cup selection.
That is because Dolly has not played a first team match at his French Ligue 1 club Montpellier since January‚ his season ravaged by injury‚ though he has featured for the reserve side fairly regularly over the last few months.
It is a smart move by an intelligent player‚ giving himself the opportunity to show Baxter that his form and fitness are no problem and hopefully‚ he will believe‚ book a place in the squad going to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt.
Baxter is a fan of the midfielder‚ so should not need much persuading‚ but it is also a chance to show South African fans that his injury woes are truly a thing of the past.
There are others who will want to put in a good showing in order to push for a place on the plane to Egypt‚ though it would admittedly likely take a bit of an injury crisis to get them there.
Baxter mentioned goalkeeper Reyaad Pieterse as one on Tuesday‚ but surely SuperSport United midfielder Teboho Mokoena can’t be far from selection either.
He has recently been crowned Premier Soccer League (PSL) Young Player of the Season‚ and is certainly a player with many admirers.
Mamelodi Sundwons forward Phakamani Mahlambi is another who can’t be too far away given his pace and quality on the ball.
If Percy Tau does succumb to his knee injury and misses the Afcon finals‚ Mahlambi could be in business.
There are others that are further back‚ but can’t be discounted.
Defender Keanu Cupido was very much under-rated at Cape Town City last season‚ while fullback Bongani Sam was a sensation for Bloemfontein Celtic.
Portugal-based attacking midfielder Kgaogelo Sekgota is something of an unknown quantity and who knows how he might impress‚ while the young forward duo of Luther Singh and Liam Jordan are packed with potential but yet to really deliver.
All of these players will likely form the backbone of the squad that will compete with Zimbabwe for a place in the Africa Under-23 Championships in September when their two-legged qualifier is played.
If South Africa reach those finals and finish in the top three‚ they will win a place at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020‚ a massive carrot to be dangled in front of Notoane and the squad.
A player like TS Galaxy forward Zakhele Lepasa‚ who has had such a meteoric rise in the last few months with his exploits in the Nedbank Cup‚ and has become hot property locally‚ can also enhance his reputation further.
His future is uncertain as he is due to return to mother club Orlando Pirates next season‚ but may not be ready to win a place in The Buccaneers side quite yet.
A good showing in Durban could earn him a loan move to another PSL team to boost his experience.