/ 26 May 2009

More injury woes for Bafana

Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana had his head in his hands on Tuesday as more bad injury news hit his camp.

This time, a sad-looking Santana looked on as team doctor Ephraim Nematswerani announced that Mamelodi Sundowns star Surprise Moriri had withdrawn from the provisional 30-man squad preparing for next month’s Confederations Cup.

Said Nematswerani: ”Moriri sustained a knee injury in the practice game in Germiston on Saturday. It was the same right knee he injured playing for his club four weeks ago. After we took a scan at the hospital, it was obvious he could not continue and he has been released from camp.”

More problematic for Santana is the reported hamstring injury that could keep Bafana’s only real world-class player, midfielder Steven Pienaar of Everton, out of Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley against Chelsea, and possibly out of the Confederations Cup.

Pienaar injured his hamstring playing for Everton against Fulham in the season’s final league match on Sunday.

Santana said he would not be calling up a replacement for Moriri. He explained: ”I have enough cover in his position [in midfield or as a second striker]. In any case, we are in our third week in camp and it is too late to bring in somebody new as I will have to cut my squad on June 4 down to 23 players according to Fifa rules.”

Santana said losing Lucas Thwala (calf injury) and Moriri was a massive blow, but said he was more worried about Pienaar, who is one of his key players for the Confederations Cup.

Said Santana: ”All I can do is pray and pray hard that Pienaar arrives on Monday in camp, fit.”

Nematswerani said he had not heard from Everton about the injury and, like Santana, was keeping his fingers crossed the injury is not serious.

Apart from the injuries, Santana said he was happy with his depleted strike force. ”I do not have any problems or worries about my strikers. I have worked with them for a year and by selecting them I have given them the necessary confidence.”

Santana said he had been studying DVDs of both Iraq and New Zealand, who Bafana meet in their opening two Group A fixtures. Bafana face Iraq at Ellis Park in the opening Confederations Cup match on June 14, and play the All Whites in Rustenburg on June 17 before ending their mini-league programme against top dogs Spain in Bloemfontein on June 20.

Said Santana: ”Both Iraq and New Zealand play a 4-4-2 system. But they are physical and good at marking. I will work out a plan to combat their physical play.

”Even Brazil have problems breaking down physical sides. But I am confident we can collect six points from those two matches. Training is going well, apart from the injuries, and I look forward to welcoming the rest of the Europe-based players next Monday.”

Bafana skipper Aaron Mokoena arrived in camp on Tuesday.

Santana emphasised the importance of Saturday’s practice match against Mauritius at the Germiston Stadium. ”Players need to show me they are hungry about playing in the Confederations Cup before I cut the squad to 23.”

Bafana team manager Sipho Nkumane confirmed no caps would be awarded for the game against Mauritius as it is regarded as a training match only. — Sapa