WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS
Baxter faces selection poser ahead of crucial Senegal games
Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo and striker Tokelo Rantie are expected to return when Stuart Baxter names his squad on Thursday for November’s must-win World Cup qualifiers against Senegal.
Baxter is unlikely to make wholesale changes from the squad that beat Burkina Faso 3-1 at FNB Stadium on October 7.
Hlatshwayo was out injured and Baxter had a makeshift defence against Burkina.
The Bidvest Wits captain made a return to action for his club in Sunday’s 1-0 Premiership win against Baroka FC in Polokwane‚ although he was booked and picked up an immediate one-game suspension.
Hlatshwayo will miss Wits’s Telkom Knockout last-16 clash against Free State Stars at Bidvest Stadium on Saturday but can return for the Clever Boys’ home league game against Chippa United on November 1.
Baxter will hope his captain can get a run in that match as Hlatshwayo, who sat out most of October, will be in need of game time. The defender, who picked up a knee injury in training, pulled out a day before Wits’s 1-0 win against Orlando Pirates on September 23.
Hlatshwayo’s return might raise a selection poser for Baxter. Clayton Daniels and Morgan Gould put in a solid shift as the coach’s central defensive pairing against Burkina‚ in a match where Bafana bounced back from disastrous back-to-back 2-1 defeats against Cape Verde.
Those results‚ then the win against Burkina‚ have left Bafana needing to beat Senegal twice — in Polokwane on November 10 and Dakar on November 14 — to top Group D and qualify for Russia 2018.
Injuries meant Baxter had to field a defence against Burkina that retained just two players — Gould and left-back Sifiso Hlanti — from the loss against Cape Verde a month before.
On the coach’s injured list‚ Hlatshwayo’s Wits centre-back teammate Buhle Mkhwanazi and Kaizer Chiefs right-back Ramahlwe Mphahlele remain on the sidelines.
Rantie was dropped for the Burkina game because the striker would be suspended at Turkish club Genclerbirligi and would have lacked match practice. He has played three games since‚ two as a substitute and one starting‚ including coming off the bench and setting up the winner in Genclerbirligi’s home 2-1 win in the Ankara club’s big match against Istanbul rivals Besiktas on October 13.
However, the striker was not in the squad for Genclerbirligi’s 3-3 draw away against Akhisar Belediyespor on Saturday.
The South African Football Association (Safa) has lodged an appeal against the suspension of Bafana central midfielder Bongani Zungu‚ who it believes was incorrectly red-carded against Burkina.
Even if Safa is successful‚ Andile Jali will remain suspended in that key area. Baxter might opt for the impressively improving SuperSport United Under-20 international Teboho Mokoena as cover.