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Mkhalele cleared from isolation for Covid-19 ahead of Bafana's semi against Mozambique

15 July 2021 - 16:10 By Marc Strydom
Jenevski Cedomir and Helman Mkhelele (assistant coaches) of Bafana Bafana during the South African national mens soccer team press conference at Hilton Hotel.
Jenevski Cedomir and Helman Mkhelele (assistant coaches) of Bafana Bafana during the South African national mens soccer team press conference at Hilton Hotel.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi

Bafana Bafana’s coach at the Cosafa Cup‚ Helman Mkhalele‚ has been cleared from isolation for Covid-19 ahead of the team’s semifinal against Mozambique at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Friday.

It was not immediately clear‚ though whether the national team wing legend would consequently be on the bench as a developmental SA‚ unbeaten in the group stage‚ seek a place in the final in the regional tournament where they have often under-performed.

Bafana’s team doctor‚ Dr Tshepo Molobi‚ said Mkhalele and goalkeeper coach Lucky Shiburi had been cleared‚ having tested positive for Covid-19 when the national team came into camp in Gqeberha.

“The two coaches have undergone the mandatory isolation period‚ which is the full 10 days‚” Molobi said. “And they have been cleared to de-isolate starting today. We have also done a rapid test on them‚ and that also clears them.”

Bafana beat Botswana and Eswatini 1-0 in their opening games of Group A‚ then Lesotho 4-0. They ended unbeaten‚ top of the log and without having conceded a goal with their 0-0 draw that sent defending champions Zambia packing from the tournament on Wednesday.

Assistant coach Morena Rameroboli‚ who has taken charge of the team in Mkhalele’s absence‚ said SA have to redouble their efforts for the knockout stage or all their hard work can be undone.

“Out of all the positives in this tournament is the character that these boys have shown‚” Rameroboli said.

“You started to see this team winning matches under difficult conditions‚ to see individuals raising their hands saying they would fight for the country.

“You can look at our goalkeeper Veli Mothwa‚ who has been doing well. Our defence has been solid because we haven’t conceded a goal. You look at Rushine de Reuck‚ Thabani Dube‚ Njabulo Ngcobo‚ Nyiko Mobbie.

“You go into the midfield I think we have created a lot of chances through our combination play‚ which is our strength. You look at the ability in the middle with Lebohang Maboe‚ Siyethemba Sithebe‚ Yusuf Maart and Sphelele Mkhulise.

“Up-front we’ve also had competitive players. I believe we have raised the bar and said we are ready to go to the semifinals.

“But what we need to do now is go out and dominate. Because it’s the knockout stage‚ the crunch time – we need to fight with everything we have.”

Guest team Senegal‚ who topped Group B and meet Eswatini in Friday’s other semifinal‚ are perhaps Bafana’s biggest remaining obstacle to lifting a fifth Cosafa Cup trophy.

But first SA need to focus on a tough semi against Mozambique‚ who drew 0-0 with Zimbabwe‚ lost 1-0 to Senegal‚ then beat Malawi 2-0 and Namibia 1-0 in Group B.