/ 26 May 2008

New coach, same old Benni

Bafana Bafana’s technical and communications staff were seemingly in a tizzy on Monday after confirmation that Benson Mhlongo had smashed his ankle and petulant Benni McCarthy had broken his word to arrive at the training camp on Monday prior to Sunday’s crucial African Nations qualifier against Nigeria.

Although Bafana general manager Sipho Nkumane retreated into his customary communicative bunker and the national team’s PROs were in the dark about the development, it was ironically confirmed by Mamelodi Sundowns coach Trott Moloto that Mhlongo was out of the squad to travel to Abuja and would somewhat surprisingly be replaced by teammate Robyn Johannes — who, incidentally, was also the replacement in the 1-0 Nedbank Cup final win over Black Aces on Saturday.

And in the wake of the equally predictable non-appearance in time in the Bafana camp of the prodigal McCarthy, Sundowns were also able to confirm that Lerato Chabangu, the scorer of the sensational 88th-minute winning goal against Black Aces, would also be accompanying the South African squad to Nigeria.

At this moment, therefore, Bafana have 24 potential starters for the game against the daunting Super Eagles — 22 of the 23 originally chosen plus Johannes and Chabangu — but with McCarthy’s presence ”up in the air” and likely to depend on whether new coach Joel Santana takes the same soft line with South Africa’s enigmatic, undisciplined top scorer as predecessor Carlos Alberto Parreira. — Sapa