Vincent Pule may have been a late call-up, but Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo says he would like to see his former Wits teammate get a run in SA’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Libya on Saturday.
Winger Pule has been in such fine form for new club Orlando Pirates that he was unlucky not to have been named in Stuart Baxter’s original squad for the Afcon qualifier at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
A dislocated toe suffered by Themba Zwane in Mamelodi Sundowns’ MTN8 semifinal against Cape Town City led to Pule being called up.
The winger has shone going forward for Pirates.
Pule might well have put his name up for a starting place by scoring one of Bafana’s goals — the other was by Bradley Grobler — in a friendly match win over AmaZulu in KwaMashu on Wednesday.
"I’m hoping that Vincent Pule can get an opportunity to display his talent," said Hlatshwayo, when asked who from the current squad he thought might be a Bafana player to watch against Libya.
"We know that we’ve lost four players. Some of them are the guys who played against Nigeria. They’re the regulars in the Bafana camp.
"So I think this will be an opportunity for the new guys to step up. Because this is not a team, it’s a country, and we all want to represent it."
In the form he is in and against a Libya team that have drawn nine of their last 19 matches and seem difficult to break down defensively, Pule might have something to offer Bafana, whether starting or coming off the bench.
The Buccaneer is one of four replacements Baxter has brought into the Bafana team.
Sundowns’ Tiyani Mabunda comes in for teammate Hlompho Kekana in central midfield, SuperSport United utility player Maphosa Modiba replaces Amiens’s Bongani Zungu and Wits striker Mxolisi Macuphu has replaced Strasbourg’s Lebogang Mothiba.
The injuries to Zungu and Kekana have made the most likely midfield pairing on Saturday SuperSport’s Dean Furman and Brentford’s Kamohelo Mokotjo, though Mabunda too has a chance to force his way in.
Mokotjo was asked if he feels any pressure in the crucial central midfield, where games can be won or lost, for this potentially make-or-break match-up. A win for SA, given that Seychelles will surely be whipping boys, would send Bafana well on the way to qualifying after just two matches, the first having been the 2-0 away win against Nigeria in 2017.
"No, I believe games are won everywhere. Everyone is responsible for their task on the pitch," Mokotjo said.
"What happens is that we have players who have been here before. So, it’s just that the players who are here need to step up. It’s just as simple as that," he said.
"We need to focus on what we can do best. That’s the secret really, nothing special."
Baxter has expressed concern that, even though he has researched Libya, they have a new coach, Adel Amrouche, the 50-year-old former Kenya boss who replaced Omar Al-Maryami in May. Consequently, the Bafana coach says, he cannot be sure how the Mediterranean Knights will play.
Libya began their Afcon 2019 Group E campaign with a 5-1 win against Seychelles in Egypt.
The top two teams from each group qualify for the 2019 tournament in Cameroon.