Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki. Picture: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI / GALLO IMAGES
Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki. Picture: SYDNEY SESHIBEDI / GALLO IMAGES

Bafana Bafana coach Molefi Ntseki has said he will opt for experienced campaigners and a cautious approach against Ghana in SA’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier in Accra on Thursday.

Perhaps crucially, Ntseki welcomes the return of fullbacks Thamsanqa Mkhize and Sifiso Hlanti, who starred when Bafana reached the quarterfinals of the 2019 Afcon in June and July by defeating hosts Egypt in the last-16 round.

In his first match in charge — in October’s 2-1 friendly win against Mali in Port Elizabeth — Ntseki had to do without Mkhize and Hlanti as both were injured.

He opted for the attacking Thapelo Morena and Innocent Maela‚ who were key to the victory on the overlap. Mkhize and Hlanti offer greater experience and are defensively stronger‚ which makes their return timely for an away game against the Black Stars.

Ntseki might have been tempted to opt for an attacking game plan and a gamble to try to catch Ghana by surprise. However, the coach said he is more likely to base his team on the core of predecessor Stuart Baxter’s starting line-up at Egypt 2019.

“You are bringing back two very experienced players who played very well in the Afcon in Mkhize and Hlanti‚” Ntseki said on Monday. “Them having not been in the camp last time‚ they gave an opportunity to Thapelo and to ‘Inno’ to do well for the team.

“But we have a point [to lose‚ if Bafana cannot draw] as we speak. So it’s for us to protect that point.

“It’s for us to go out there and maybe during moments of the game try to take advantage and maybe win this match.

“But we are not going to go out there like we did against Mali and pull out all the guns,” said Ntseki.

“We have to be very careful. Starting on the front foot can get us an early goal and unsettle Ghana. But at the same time if you give Ghana too much possession they can easily hurt you.

“They are at home‚ they will have the support and the confidence. So it’s a game where one has to be very cautious.

“We need to manage the phases of the game very well. That is why we are talking of players with experience‚ players who have been here before‚ players who have played at the highest level. I’m referring to the Afcon.

“These are the players who did very well against Egypt. These are the players who did very well against Nigeria in Nigeria [with a 2-1 win in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers in Uyo in June 2017],” said the coach.

“So we are very careful in our approach. Our tactical strategy has to be one of being protective‚ but at the same time we should not be dropping too deep and giving Ghana possession‚ because they can always be dangerous.”

Lebogang Manyama came in as a late replacement for injured Mamelodi Sundowns star Themba Zwane ahead of SA’s departure.

After Ghana‚ Bafana return to meet Sudan at Orlando Stadium on Sunday.

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