Durban - Gordon Igesund has admitted that Bafana Bafana’s final 23-man Africa Cup of Nations squad is likely to come from the latest 36-man list announced in Durban on Tuesday.
The South Africa coach sprung few surprises in his team of 24 players named for an international friendly against Malawi to be played at the Moses Mabhida Stadium next Saturday.
It was also revealed that the final squad for the January 19 to February 10 continental spectacle, which the country will host, had been brought forward by more than 10 days to December 30.
Belgium-based midfielder Ayanda Patosi and Orlando Pirates goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa were the only two uncapped players in the squad, while defender Siyanda Xulu, who plays his football in Russia, Kaizer Chiefs fullback Tsepo Masilela and Orlando Pirates midfielder Daine Klate returned after long absences.
“It’s more than likely that the majority of the squad will come from this group of players,” Igesund told a press conference.
Mamelodi Sundowns striker Katlego Mphela and Pirates frontman Benni McCarthy, who both returned from injuries recently, were named amongst a group of 12 players that will be added to the squad after the December 22 friendly.
The full 36-man party would then reassemble for a three-day camp in Johannesburg at the end of the month, where they will have one final chance to prove their credentials to the coaching staff during a series of training sessions and internal preparation games.
“I’ve moved the date forward because I felt I needed more time with the players,” Igesund explained.
“To get them on the 8 (January), that will leave me with only 10 days before the 19 (January), and with games in between, it would have been far too little time.
“We’ve got to get the squad settle and start working with them on the training field. Naming the squad early will give me a solid period to work better with the squad.”
The coach admitted he was satisfied with the weekend return to Premiership action by McCarthy and Mphela.
“Benni and Katlego have got a race against time to get themselves fit,” he said.
“I’m happy that they both played games on the weekend.
“They’ve only got one or two games to play in the league and then in the period when they do join us I’ll be able to have a good look at them and their fitness.”
Bafana Bafana would play Norway (January 8) and Algeria (January 12) in their final warm-up match before their Afcon opener against Cape Verde Islands on January 19.
Bafana Bafana squad:
Goalkeepers: Itumeleng Khune, Wayne Sandilands, Senzo Meyiwa.
Defenders: Siyabonga Sangweni, Bevan Fransman, Thabo Nthethe, Thabo Matlaba, Siyanda Xulu, Tsepo Masilela, Siboniso Gaxa.
Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Lerato Chabangu, Oupa Manyisa, Thuso Phala,
Sifiso Myeni, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Delron Buckley, Ayanda Patosi, May
Mahlangu, Thanduyise Khuboni, Dane Klate.
Strikers: Bernard Parker, Lehlohonolo Majoro, Tokelo Rantie.
12-man mini-training camp:
Darren Keet - KV Kortrijk FC (Sweden)
Eric Mathoho - Kaizer Chiefs
Anele Ngcongca - Racing Genk FC (Belgium)
Andile Jali - Orlando Pirates
Teko Modise - Mamelodi Sundowns
Bongani Khumalo - Paok (Greece)
Ricardo Nunes - MSK Zilina (Slovakia)
Thulani Serero - Ajax Amsterdam (Holland)
Katlego Mphela - Mamelodi Sundowns
Benni McCarthy - Orlando Pirates
Kagisho Dikgacoi - Crystal Palace (England)
Dean Furman - Oldham Athletic (England)