Thulani Serero. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Thulani Serero. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Thulani Serero has asked to be excused from Friday’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Senegal at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane if he is not guaranteed to play.

The midfielder is one of a few overseas-based players who have not arrived due to their flights being cancelled or delayed. The others are Lebogang Manyama‚ Andile Jali and Keagan Dolly.

In Serero’s case, there is more to the story.

"Thulani gave an indication to Barney Kujane [the team manager] that if he’s not going to play‚ he doesn’t really want to come to camp‚" Bafana coach Stuart Baxter said on Tuesday.

"So because this is a national team and not a club team‚ you can’t guarantee people places."

Stuart Baxter. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Stuart Baxter. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Baxter said Serero can stay where he is in the Netherlands, where he plays for Vitesse‚ because no player is guaranteed a place.

"Whether that’s permanent‚ I don’t know… we have asked him to put that in writing so that we know for sure.

"Maybe it’s a shame for his teammates who are working very hard to beat Senegal‚ so we want as little distraction as possible‚" Baxter said.

Serero’s action comes not long after Tokelo Rantie also requested recently that he wanted to be excused from the national team after he was dropped from the squad that beat Burkina Faso in October.

Rantie‚ who is based in Turkey‚ was apparently disappointed to be dropped and asked that he not be called up for the Senegal match.

Baxter hinted that he is unlikely to call up players who behave in this manner.

"Serero has given clear indication that he won’t be in this camp. And what implications this has for his future in Bafana, you can guess for yourself.

"But I don’t think anybody is too impressed with a player that is selected and didn’t think it’s worth coming‚" Baxter added.

At the same time, the last thing Baxter wanted to hear was that there are South Africans who do not believe his team can beat Senegal. When that was suggested to him, he appeared to be caught off guard.

"Wow! We are in camp and we are going to play two very‚ very important games and you are highlighting for me that there are people who have already written us off‚" Baxter retorted.

"Are they Zimbabweans‚ Congolese or are they South Africans? Maybe they are from Senegal‚ I don’t know."

It is a win-or-bust match for Bafana as they have to beat the Senegalese in Polokwane to maintain any hope of boarding the flight to the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.

Group D remains open and a win for Bafana would take the race for the sole qualifying berth down to the wire as the two countries face each other again in Dakar in what could be the decider next Tuesday.

A draw or loss for Bafana on Friday would end their dream of qualifying for the global showpiece, so Baxter expects the country to rally behind the team for the crucial tie in Limpopo.

"If they [the doubters] are South African‚ I would say get a grip of yourself for goodness sake," he said.

"I’d say we have one game‚ 90 minutes and we want everybody behind us.

"We will try everything in our power to try to win that game and take Senegal right to the wire. We will try to do that and that’s 90 minutes.

"And if they can’t keep themselves positive for another 90 minutes‚ then I’m sorry‚" a disbelieving Baxter said.

TimesLIVE

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