Injury worries for Bafana
Rustenburg - Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane enjoyed the rare luxury of a full squad at the team's first training session ahead of their crucial Group G 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Niger in Niamey on Sunday afternoon.
Left back Tsepo Masilela, arriving from Spain on Monday morning, was the last player to link up with the 24 member squad in camp at the Royal Marang Hotel in Rustenburg.
But there are still injury concerns around goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs, who has problems with his shoulder, midfielders Teko Modise and Oupa Manyisa, both suffering from ankle injuries and Tlou Segolela (left knee), and they will all undergo MRI scans .
The players had been involved in tough action over the past two weekends, playing in the MTN8 semi-finals, with midweek league matches sandwiched in-between, but team doctor Ephraim Nematswerani expected them to be passed fit for the West African journey.
“The season has just started with games coming in thick and fast for Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Ajax Cape Town in the last seven days," said Nematswerani.
"No wonder we are sitting here with a number of knocks.
“Teko has been declared fit to carry on with camp while Moeneeb's shoulder has not recovered fully from rehab but there will be further MRI investigations later today before we can make final decisions.”
The match against the Nigeriens would see Bafana qualify for next year's continental show-piece in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon if they win and Sierra Leone draw or lose against an under-strength Egypt side in Freetown on the same weekend.
Mosimane said his charges did not want to leave their qualification fate to their last group match against Sierra Leone - a team he has described as “dark horses” - in Port Elizabeth next month.
Even though Niger beat both the Lone Stars and the Egyptian Pharaohs at home, they did so without displaying any dominance over their opponents.
“In my opinion, In the two games they won in Niamey, they were not the stronger team," Mosimane said.
"It’s tricky because they didn’t show any dominance but won their games.
“They scored against the run of play when they beat Egypt, and were 1-0 down against Sierra Leone before scoring three goals in the last 20 minutes.
“But we'll see what happens because I don't think they'll want to leave it to their last match against Egypt in Cairo to get their maximum points.”
South Africa will be banking on prolific scorer Katlego Mphela to find the net, who may operate as a lone man upfront with Thulani Serero playing as his shadow striker.
Regular strike partner Bernard Parker could start from the bench but will have to rise to the occasion after a less than fluent start as the new signing at Chiefs.
Bafana have boasted a strong defensive and are yet to concede a goal in their four matches thus far, while earning credible 0-0 away draws in testing conditions in both Sierra Leone and Egypt.
The regular defensive foursome of Masilela, Bongani Khumalo, Siyabonga Sangweni and Anele Ngcongca - barring injuries - should pick themselves on their past performances.
“I hope we will score early because scoring first will be much better for us,” said Mosimane.
“I also think that our defence is stable. We have enough ammunition to keep them from scoring and did well in our two away matches.
“Our ambition is to qualify without conceding a goal.
"They will look to be competitive having suspended their league so the players could have a training camp preparing for us.”