Pienaar out of Bafana qualifier
Rustenburg - The Bafana Bafana medical team reported a fit squad on Monday ahead of this weekend's crucial Group G 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Sierra Leone in Nelspruit.
Regular captain Steven Pienaar, however, was ruled out entirely after head coach Pitso Mosimane had hoped he would be a late inclusion.
There were a number of initial injury concerns, with defender Siyabonga Sangweni (foot), and forwards Thulani Serero (groin), Lehlohonolo Majoro (groin), Bernard Parker (left knee) and Lebohang Mokoena (hamstring) all fighting niggles at the weekend.
"All players have been deemed fit to continue and will start training in today's afternoon session," team doctor Ephraim Nematswerani said on Monday.
Pienaar, who was put on standby while recovering from a long-term groin injury, will not link up with the team after talks between his English club, Tottenham Hotspur, and Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane.
While the nimble midfielder is back training with Spurs after nearly three months out, Pienaar has not played a game since returning last week.
Mosimane opted for the cautious approach while considering the long-term benefits of Pienaar's full recovery, especially if Bafana qualify for next year's biennial continental showpiece.
In his absence, the skillful Serero, who had to be rested for four days by his Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam after hurting his groin against Real Madrid in a Uefa Champions League tie last week, will be key to Mosimane's game plan.
"We have to be patient and handle these players well in our preparation for such a crucial game," Mosimane said.
"We decided with Spurs that Steven must not join this camp even though he could have been available.
"We will need him more for the Cup of Nations."
The overseas-based trio of Siboniso Gaxa, Brad Grobler and Daylon Claasen arrived on Monday morning while Anele Ngcongca, who was expected to join the team later in the evening, would complete the arrival of the 23-man squad.
The final qualifying round fixture is a must-win game for the South Africans ahead of the continental showpiece in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon early next year.
Even if they win, Bafana will hope log leaders and perennial poor travellers Niger, who have nine points, either lose against or draw with Egypt in Cairo in a simultaneous fixture.
Sierra Leone stand a chance of qualifying too, and are third in the group, equal on eight points with second-placed Bafana.
"In my opinion, Niger have first option of qualifying and we have second," Mosimane said.
"So Sierra Leone have to come at us if they want to qualify, even though I can't forecast whether it will be an open game or how they will play.
"I know what I want to do - we will attack. Irrespective of what they will do, we will attack.
"Whenever we play in South Africa and in front of our home fans, you can always see how well we play and how hungry we are."