Bafana find a raw diamond in tough Lebo Mothiba
The striker’s recent performance makes him a shoo-in for the next Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers
With two goals for Bafana Bafana in the Four Nations in Zambia and two in six starts in Ligue 1 for Lille since being recalled from loan in January‚ Lebogang Mothiba has thrust himself into the spotlight as a genuine national team prospect.
Even better is that Mothiba‚ 22, who represented SA at the Rio Olympics in 2016‚ is exactly the sort of striker Bafana need — a big centre-forward who can hold the ball up and finish with his head and feet. That also makes him the kind of striker coach Stuart Baxter likes.
After Mothiba scored both the equaliser in a 1-1 full-time result in SA’s penalties win against Angola and the clincher in the 2-0 final win against Zambia last week‚ he is sure to be pushed up the pecking order for the next Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in September.
Baxter was cautious about the South African tendency to rush young strikers as a solution to Bafana’s notorious scoring woes. "We need to have patience because we have youngsters and experienced players who will be vying for the same places‚" Baxter said.
"Lebo is a sort of a non-South African South African‚ if you get what I am saying. He is not like Ryan Moon, who is a bit slippery. Lebo is in your face and when he gets it right he is a hell of a target because he holds it up really well. What he does well is that he holds the ball until we get more men in the attack. He has a lot to learn‚ he is a raw diamond and I think if he gets opportunities he will be an asset for us."
Mothiba‚ the Diambars Academy product signed as a 19-year-old after trials when Lille were looking for a big‚ physical young striker in 2014‚ worked on his game technically for Lille’s reserves in France’s fourth tier and was then loaned for two seasons to Valenciennes in Ligue 1. He scored 11 goals in 32 games for Valenciennes.
His goals this season came in a 2-1 away defeat against second-placed Monaco and 2-2 draw away against sixth-placed Nantes, though Lille remain relegation-threatened second from the bottom.