Bafana Bafana head coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba has announced a squad of 25 players to play against Mauritania as well as Egypt in back to back matches.
In the first clash, South Africa will round off their 2017 Gabon Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers when they face Mauritania on Friday, 2 September 2016.
The encounter has been scheduled for Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
The second match sees South Africa hosting the Pharaohs of Egypt in the 22nd edition of the Nelson Mandela Challenge, which will be played at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Tuesday, 6 September 2016.
Mashaba has kept the bulk of the squad that has been doing duty in the national team over the last few matches and added some new faces – Abbubaker Mobara, Deolin Mekoa, Maphosa Modiba. The trio was part of the squad that won the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup and also travelled to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, alongside Itumeleng Khune, Rivaldo Coetzee, Thapelo Morena, Keagan Dolly and Gift Motupa who have also been called up.
This will be Bafana Bafana’s first match since they last played in June against Gambia in the AFCON qualifiers.
The match also comes after recess in the local league, something of a worry to Mashaba.
“It has been very difficult trying to pick the team because most of the players are still busy with pre-season, only a handful have matches under their belts. We had to rely mainly on what the players can do from past experiences. It was a tough call but we had to do it. Fortunately, some clubs have been playing in pre-season cup competitions, which is very encouraging,” said Mashaba.
Bafana Bafana will not be going to Gabon after failing to qualify for the tournament with one match to spare – they managed one win (against Gambia), three draws (one against Gambia and two against Cameroon) and suffered one loss (against Mauritania).
Some may see this as a meaningless match, but not so says Mashaba.
“When it comes to the national team, there is no match that doesn’t serve a purpose. We are fortunate we have two back to back to matches which will assist us great in helping preparing for the all-important start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia qualifiers where we are away to Burkina Faso in the opening match less than a month after we play Egypt,” added Mashaba.
“And soon thereafter, we will be hosting Senegal in the second match – these are very crucial because a good start is vital in the qualifiers so that when you falter along the way or you gain momentum, you already have the points. We learnt our lesson in the AFCON qualifiers that a good start is key. The good thing is that the matches are just a month apart and by that time our players will have gained momentum from the league season, so the matches against Mauritania and Egypt will prepare us well.”
The squad goes into camp on Sunday, 28 August and departs for Mpumalanga on Monday, 29 August.