Cape Town - Ajax Amsterdam star Thulani Serero was left out of the final 23-man Bafana Bafana squad for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations to be played from January 17 to February 8, 2015.
According to the supersport.com website, Serero was initially part of the 34-man preliminary squad and was expected to join the mini-camp which started on December 26.
However, the player did not turn up after his Dutch club had requested the national team to allow him time to rest - this despite the fact that the player arrived two days before the scheduled camp.
Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba kept faith with most of the players that did duty during the Afcon 2015 qualifiers with midfielder Dean Furman (England) expected to join the camp early next month due to club commitments.
Mashaba named three goalkeepers, seven defenders, nine midfielders and four strikers.
Of the seven overseas-based contingent called up in the provisional squad, only Serero and Ayanda Patosi miss out on the plane to Equatorial Guinea.
Andile Jali, who did not train with the team since his arrival due to a knock on the knee, has been declared fit to travel.
“This was a very hectic exercise and if you look at all the players that were here, it was not easy to select the final 23.
"Unfortunately, we are bound by rules and regulations of the competition and had to trim the squad. We are glad we managed to select the players we believe will represent the country well in Equatorial Guinea,” said Mashaba.
“We still want to say to those who have been selected, this is a perfect opportunity for you, grab it with both hands because selection is not permanent. You still have to go out, work hard and make your country proud. To those who missed out, it is not the end of the world, there are more competitions coming, which means more opportunities again.”
Bafana Bafana have taken a short break from camp and will return in the New Year on Friday, January 2.
Two days later (Sunday, January 4) they will have a warm-up match against Equatorial Guinea-bound Zambia at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Kick-off is at 15:00.
“This game will give us an indication of where we stand in terms of readiness for the tournament. I would like to see fans come in numbers to say farewell and to congratulate the final 23,” added Mashaba.
The Bafana Bafana mentor also took the opportunity to wish South Africans well over the festive break.
“We are now approaching the dawning of the New Year, we would like to say to everyone look after yourselves. I know everyone is still excited as we are on holiday, but don’t drink and drive, it is not safe at all. To those at the beach, don’t drink and jump into the water, you are looking for trouble, be responsible in your celebrations,” concluded the coach.
“To all those who supported the team during the qualifying campaign, who sent us prayers and messages of support, we would like to say thank you. Now we are moving to a higher level where we will need that support again. Come back and give the team the strength it needs to do well in this upcoming assignment.”
Bafana Bafana will travel to Gabon on Tuesday, January 6 for a pre-tournament camp where they are scheduled to play a number of warm-up matches.
They will face Cameroon in Libreville on Saturday, January 10 with a clash with hosts Gabon penciled in for either January 13 or 14.
The South Africans will then move to Equatorial Guinea on either January 14 or 15.
Bafana Bafana’s opening match in the tournament is against Algeria on Monday, January 19 (21:00 SA time), followed by the clash with Senegal on Friday, January 23 (21:00 SA time) with the last group-stage match against Ghana on Tuesday, January 27 (20:00 SA time).
South Africa will play all their group-stage matches in Mongomo.
Goalkeepers: Brilliant Khuzwayo, Darren Keet, Jackson Mabokgwane
Defenders: Siyabonga Nhlapo, Patrick Phungwayo, Anele Ngcongca, Thulani Hlatshwayo, Mulomowandau Mathoho, Rivaldo Coetzee, Thabo Matlaba
Midfielders: Themba Zwane, Andile Jali, Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Bongani Zungu, Thamsanqa Sangweni, Dean Furman, Thuso Phala, Mandla Masango, Oupa Manyisa
Strikers: Bernard Parker, Tokelo Rantie, Bongani Ndulula, Sibusiso Vilakazi