Benni Bafana's 'missing link'
Johannesburg - Blackburn Rovers striker Benni McCarthy is Bafana Bafana's missing link as new coach Carlos Alberto Parreira rebuilds the national side starting with two friendly matches against Japan in Port Elizabeth on Saturday and Jamaica in Bloemfontein next Tuesday.
That was the view expressed by Bafana goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs in welcoming back McCarthy, 31, to the squad after a six month absence.
McCarthy was axed form the Confederations Cup squad in May by former coach Joel Santana for disciplinary reasons, but Santana's successor Parreira, has welcomed McCarthy back with open arms.
Said Josephs: "McCarthy brings a new vibe to the squad. He is a leader on and off the field because of his personality and experience.
"I do not mean any disrespect to the other strikers in the squad, but Benni brings a special quality to Bafana.
"I am glad he is back and I am sure he will be firing when we meet Japan on Saturday.
"We have missed his experience and the uncanny way he can score vital goals. We all know what Benni can do and in my opinion he was the missing link in our past games where we hit a slump."
Josephs is also happy that Parreira is back as head coach after 17 months in the wilderness under Santana.
The Orlando Pirates star would not be drawn on Santana who was seen as a poor substitute for Parreira but added: "Parreira has experience of having won a World Cup with Brazil.
"He brings so much quality and know-how to the squad. I think his influence will start rubbing off soon."
Josephs who has been in superb form for club and country, is fighting against German based Rowen Fernandez and teenager and South African Under-20 cap, Darren Keet, for the number one jersey.
Although Josephs played in the last two friendly matches away to Norway and Iceland, he is taking nothing for granted.
Former Bafana keeper Hans Vonk, 39, now playing for Ajax Cape Town, has also made himself available for the national side.
Said Josephs: "Competition is healthy. It is good for goalkeepers and for the side as it will make us a lot sharper.
"I am taking nothing for granted and know I will have to work for my place in the starting line up. It will be up to the new coach as to who starts.
"But one thing for sure is as keepers, we are going to have to work our socks off at training this week to get the nod.
"Parreira appreciates hard work and that is what I am aiming to do - giving my all at training."
Despite Bafana losing 1-0 to both Norway and Iceland, Josephs shone, especially against Norway in Oslo. He has grown in confidence since he replaced an injured Fernandez in the 2008 African Nations Cup finals in Ghana.
Parreira was in charge of Bafana at the 2008 AFCON and both Josephs and Fernandez are keen to play against Japan with the imminent return of first choice Kaizer Chiefs keeper Itumeleng Khune who has been sidelined for three months with injury.
Khune is set for a return to club action within weeks.