Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane has recalled Moroka Swallows veteran striker Siyabonga Nomvethe to his 27-man squad for three matches next month.
“He [Nomvethe] fits our criteria and the way we play,” Mosimane said on Thursday.
It is the first call-up for the 34-year-old, among Bafana’s all-time leading scorers with 16 goals in 79 caps, since he was dropped after the World Cup two years ago.
“In our system, the transition from defence to attack is crucial and he fits that,” Mosimane said.
“He has discipline and respects the badge. Nomvethe has never said no to Bafana.”
South Africa play two 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers in June against Ethiopia in Rustenburg and Botswana in Gaborone.
They then face 2012 Africa Cup of Nations co-hosts Gabon in a friendly international in Johannesburg.
The friendly match fell on a Fifa international date in August but was shifted forward due to a packed Confederation of African Football (Caf) fixture list with Afcon and World Cup qualifiers also in the programme.
Mosimane also called up beanpole Santos poacher Eleazor Rodgers upfront, alongside new cap Tokelo Rantie from Orlando Pirates.
They will aid the national side’s top striker, Katlego Mphela, who has struggled with form and confidence over the last year.
In midfield, nippy Free State Stars winger Mzikakiyise Mashaba was handed a first call-up, while the Kaizer Chiefs duo of Siphiwe Tshabalala and Reneilwe Letsholonyane return from injury after they missed the match against Senegal in February.
The country’s number two shot-stopper, Moeneeb Josephs, also returns from injury, while Darren Keet was included, with four goalkeepers named in the party.
Eight overseas players were named in the squad, including captain Steven Pienaar, May Mahlangu and Thulani Serero, but there was no place for Belgian-based attacking midfielder Daylon Claasen.
Three players – Luvhengo Mungomeni (Swallows), Thami Sangweni (AmaZulu) and Lehlohonolo Masalesa (Wits) – were named on standby in case of injury.
Mosimane said victories over Ethiopia and Botswana were key ahead of their away match against the Central African Republic (CAR) next March, in their bid to qualify for the 2014 global showpiece.
They hoped to shine after missing out on qualifying for this year’s Afcon tournament when they failed to interpret the rules correctly.
“It’s a big opportunity for us to start off well in the group before we meet CAR,” he said.
“In the 2012 Afcon qualifiers we started off well and in the end needed one point to qualify for tournament.
“But we have learnt from the experience and our mistakes.
“It’s also the time that the country and Bafana start winning because it’s time to break the ice from the draws.”
The bulk of the squad will assemble next Monday for a two-week training camp in the North West.
Meanwhile, SA Football Association (Safa) chief executive Robin Peterson also confirmed an away match against Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland in October.
Safa said it would announce all fixtures for the rest of the year on May 31.
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune, Moeneeb Josephs, Wayne Sandilands, Darren Keet.
Defenders: Punch Masenamela, Tsepo Masilela, Eric Mathoho, Siboniso Gaxa, Morgan Gould, Siyabonga Sangweni, Bongani Khumalo, Anele Ngcongca.
Midfielders: Andile Jali, May Mahlangu, Thulani Serero, Steven Pienaar (captain), Oupa Manyisa, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Mzikayise Mashaba, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Thanduyise Khuboni, Teko Modise, Lebohang Mokoena.
Strikers: Katlego Mphela, Siyabonga Nomvethe, Tokelo Rantie, Eleazor Rodgers. – Sapa