/ 2 June 2009

Santana set to trim Bafana squad

Bafana Bafana coach Joel Santana makes his toughest decision of his 11 months in charge when he axes six players from his 29-man provisional squad on Thursday.

Santana admitted that he faced a couple of sleepless nights.

”I would like to keep all 29 players, but we have to trim the squad to 23 according to Fifa rules. It is going to be a heartbreaking decision.”

Bafana skipper Aaron Mokoena agreed with his coach and stated that the six players who will be dropped will still be part of the national set-up.

Said the new Portsmouth signing: ”All the players have worked hard in preparing for the Confederations Cup. We all know that six players have to go. The six will still be part of our squad. They are part of the bigger picture and must not be downhearted as they are still in the coach’s future plans and will get another chance.”

All the overseas based players, except Spain-based defender Nasief Morris, are in camp and trained on Tuesday, including Everton’s Steven Pienaar — who played in the FA Cup final against Chelsea on the weekend — Bernard Parker, Siyabonga Nkosi, Bryce Moon, Tsepo Masilela, Siyabonga Nkosi, Macbeth Sibaya and Terror Fanteni. Morris is expected on Wednesday.

If Santana was hoping to finalise his 23 players after Bafana’s 2-0 win in a training game over Mauritius in Germiston last Saturday, the match produced more questions than answers.

One player who did himself a power of good was SuperSport United midfielder Lance Davids, who scored a brilliant goal.

Said Davids on Tuesday: ”Like everyone, I am hoping to stay on. But we are all professionals and realise that the coach has a tough job to do. I know that whoever is dropped will still be supporting their teammates and that goes for me. The coach has to select what he believes is his best combination to succeed in the Confederations Cup.”

Davids said the goal had boosted his confidence: ”It is always nice to score a goal, even if it is only a training game.”

Davids, after a good run against a weak Mauritius side, said he hoped to test himself against Poland, who Bafana meet in their final warm-up match at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday. Kick-off is scheduled for 4pm but may be moved to a 3pm kick-off

”Poland will be much more competitive. The players enjoyed the run against Mauritius but Poland are a far better side to gauge our strengths against,” said Davids.

One of the players who faces the axe is Mamelodi Sundowns striker Katlego Mphela, who has suffered a disappointing season at Downs through injuries and having to work with three coaches during last season.

Said Mphela: ”If I go then I will have at least benefited from the last three weeks in training. It has been good for me and helped restore my confidence. I did have a bad injury and the changing of coaches through the season did not help. But I am not going to use that as an excuse for my slump in form. My form has improved thanks to this tough camp. I have enjoyed it. If I get a break and stay on, I hope to do well in the Confederations Cup as my goal is to go back to play overseas.”

With Mokoena, Morris and two young SuperSport central defenders Bongani Khumalo and Morgan Gould in the wings, veteran former Bafana and South Africa Under-23 captain Matthew Booth’s position could be in doubt.

Mphela, Booth, Orlando Pirates defender Innocent Mdledle, his Bucs teammate, Thulasizwe Mbuyane, Mzuvukile Tom and veteran goalkeeper Brian Baloyi could miss the cut. But, with so many of the players of equal ability, it is going to be a tough call for Santana. — Sapa